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Inmate Medical Costs Prompt Potential County Solutions

WGIL Newsroom . Local News 296

Knox County Law CenterThere’s been a bit of an overrun on a line item designed to cover the medical costs of Knox County Jail inmates.

The County’s Finance Committee learned Wednesday night that several large health claims have been made, putting the fund $20-thousand over budget. Under state statute, the County is required to cover inmate medical expenses.

Committee member Bob Bondi says the the County “desperately” needs to encourage a change.

“Unless for some reason it’s not legal to do it, I can’t imagine,” says Bondi.

The County has taken steps in the past to consider if their liability carrier can offer inmate insurance, although the coverage is simply not provided.

According to the discussion, the Sheriff’s Department and the Knox County Board of Health could soon be working on alternatives. Among those solutions is lowering the cost burden on the County by signing-up inmates under the Affordable Care Act. Others could include paying the premium on private health insurance.

Knox County Treasurer Robin Davis tells WGIL enrolling on the exchanges could be preferable.

“My understanding is the in-person counselors, or somebody, would come in and enroll [the inmates],” says Davis. “So it would be their coverage, it would just cover their medical costs while they’re incarcerated, or any other time they have a medical situation.”

The legality of the matter is under question. An opinion would need to be garnered from the State’s Attorney’s office before such a proposal could move forward.

Around $55-thousand is budgeted by the County on an annual basis for contract care and associated expenses for the medical costs. Those figures are developed using historical trends.

Should legal grounds be established for the change, Knox County has the potential to save taxpayer dollars on the premiums as opposed to simply paying out-of-pocket expenses.

Committee Member Cheryl Nache says plenty of the inmates won’t have health insurance coverage, making the move beneficial.

“There shouldn’t be a reason we have to because it’s not like they’re staying there,” says Nache. “They either get transferred either out or somewhere else, you know what I’m saying? So there shouldn’t a reason why we get stuck with that premium.”

The matter is currently being considered by the County’s Sheriff, Jail, and Mary Davis Home Committee.

No action is expected by the County until further research is conducted.