In 1994, Jamie Scott and her sister Gladys were convicted of armed robbery and sentenced to life in prison in Jackson, Mississippi. Since then, Jamie, now 38, has undergone dialysis treatments, which are provided to her gratis by the state, as a prisoner. The state estimates that the additional cost of imprisoning her is $200,000 per year because of this.
So, Haley Barbour offered the sisters a deal that the sisters accepted. For Jamie, she is released today, and is moving to Pensacola, where she will reside on probation. For Gladys, though, the deal is more intriguing. One of her conditions for release is that she has one year to donate one of her kidneys to Jamie. She is also moving to Pensacola; both sisters will move in with their mother.
Mississippi has not agreed to pay for the kidney transplant. Therefore, either Florida’s Medicaid will pay for this operation and the follow-up costs, Jamie will pay for it herself or she will depend on donations to provide the cost. Her attorney, Chokwe Lumumba, posits that Florida Medicaid will pay much of the cost of the operation; the family expects private donations to make up the difference.
Here are some questions that come to mind:
1) Why should Florida Medicaid have to incur the cost? The sisters resided in Mississippi prior to their arrest, and are only moving to Pensacola now because their family has moved there. I think that this is a precedent that the other Deep South Gulf states will employ with great relish. Any prisoner will be released if they have excessive medical costs on the condition that they move out of state and promise never to return. Sweet deal.
2) What action could be taken against Gladys if Florida Medicaid refuses to pay for the transplant? I assume that she may be indigent; it’s sort of unclear how many employers in the Florida panhandle will be willing to hire a woman who was found guilty of luring two people into a deserted area where she had three friends beat them unconscious with weapons in order to rob them of $100. I assume that she is ineligible for SSI since if she had a health problem, how could she donate a kidney?
3) Would Mississippi ever consider taking Gladys back if she decides to refuse the operation now that she is a Florida resident? My guess is that they would tell Florida that she is their problem now, as well as incurring the cost of Jamie’s dialysis treatment. Out of sight, out of mind.