Prison board inks pact with local medical group
August 25, 2010
Medical costs incurred by inmates has been a thorn in the side of the Warren County Prison Board for more than two years.
However, during its meeting Tuesday morning, the board took a major step towards curbing those costs by voting in favor of entering into a contract with Seneca Medical Group from Seneca, Pa.
According to Warden Gerald Britton, the county currently pays $3,500 each month for a physician to visit the jail twice a week. In addition, $1,500 goes to Cost Management Plus each month for the service provider to review the jail’s medical costs.
“Under the Seneca Medical Group program, we would gain a valid and comprehensive program that would comply with state standards, be responsible for providing a nurse and assume liability for medical care as well as oversee pharmacy and related drug costs and medical billing,” he said.
In addition to a 40-hour per week nurse, Seneca Medical Group will provide:
¯ organization and dispensing or medications,
¯ maintain policy standards required by the state,
¯ provide yearly CPR and first aid certification to employees,
¯ maintain all medical records and document physician information,
¯ and schedule any required outside treatment.
The cost for the medical program is $10,300 per month. While the cost is more than double what the county pays now, Britton noted that the new program provides a total program which would reduce the number of medical visits to outside agencies.
Warren County Commissioner Terry Hawk agreed and said, “I think the biggest savings will be the (reduction in) frivolous trips to the hospitals.”
The county won’t be footing the bill alone. Inmates will be contributing their share through a $100 administrative fee charged at each in-take and through co-pays for services.
As an example, Britton said between Jan. 1 and July 10, 443 people were committed to the jail. Had the administrative fee system been in place, the county would have collected $44,300 for the medical program.
County treasurer and board member Nancy Siggins questioned the practicality of counting on the funds received from inmate fees.
“You may never see it,” she said.
Deputy Warden Steve Smith explained that the fee wouldn’t be a part of restitution. Instead, when money is placed in the inmate’s commissary account by a relative or friend, half of each transaction will be put towards the fee until the $100 is paid.
In addition, Smith said the jail staff has also considered delaying inmates’ early re-entry status until the fee is paid. Specifically, the “good time” program allows the inmate to accrue five days off their sentence each month for good behavior, he said.
“No time will be assessed until it (the fee) is paid,” Smith added.
Co-pays paid by the inmates will now follow the same amount paid by county employees. The amounts are $20 for doctor and nurse visits and $50 for emergency room visits.
According to Smith, under the current system, inmates pay a $10 co-pay for a doctor’s visits – half of what county employees pay with their insurance. Smith called the difference not “fair.”
The motion to approved the proposed medical program passed by an unanimous vote with Sheriff Larry Kopko absent from the meeting. The motion directs Britton to contact Seneca Medical Group for a draft contract and have the contract reviewed by the county solicitor with the hopes of having the program in place by the end of the year.
In the meantime, the board voted in favor of changing two jail policies to allow for the increased co-pays and the collection of the administrative fee. Smith reported that the fee collection could start as early as September.
County Commissioner John Eggleston was in favor of starting the fee collection quickly “to build up some cash.”