As prices for medicines continue to rise, state prisons are spending more to treat inmates, a problem that has strapped budgets and prompted prisoners to file lawsuits against some state agencies. But a novel workaround might help the states lower their costs.

The idea is a bit complicated and not yet vetted but is, nonetheless, intriguing because it would require testing an exemption in the Medicaid program. By doing so, state correctional facilities, which are estimated to spend 15 percent of health care costs on prescription drugs, may be able to save money, according to a new proposal from analysts at The Pew Charitable Trusts, who explored the possibility.

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