COLUMBIANA CO. Officials mull plan to insure inmates

Inmate medical bills cost the county about $100,000 annually.
LISBON -- Columbiana County could save about $20,000 annually if a plan is adopted to provide medical insurance to county jail inmates, county Commissioner Dave Cranmer said.
Cranmer, who's been working on the insurance idea for months, said Wednesday he's hopeful an insurance plan can be put before the board for passage in the next few weeks.
He said he's reviewing details of proposals submitted by three insurers interested in furnishing health coverage for county jail inmates.
The insurance would cover the cost of prescriptions, doctor visits and hospitalization.
Insurance programs can produce savings through monitoring inmate care and by entering into agreements with medical providers regarding charges for services.
Typically, insurance companies collect a fee based on a percentage of the savings they're able to produce. The arrangement would mean the county could reduce its insurance costs and not have to pay for the insurance, making the cost reduction possible.
The county's expense for providing inmate medical care averages about $100,000 yearly.
Counties are required by law to provide medical care for inmates, even if the prisoners have their own health insurance or would be otherwise covered by Medicaid.
The county also is forbidden from forcing inmates to pay for medical expenses incurred during their incarceration.
In 2001, the county was forced to pay the nearly $11,000 bill when an inmate had a baby.
Inmate insurance is among the efforts county officials are undertaking in a bid to save money.
The county is critically short of funding to meet payrolls and pay for goods and services.
The cash shortage is the result of expenses' outpacing county revenues.
Besides trying to cut costs wherever possible, county officials have laid off workers, reduced employee hours and frozen noncrucial spending.
Commissioners imposed a 0.5 percent county sales tax increase last month that could produce about $3 million in additional revenue. The increase is to take effect Sept. 1.
But a citizens group opposed to imposed taxes is seeking to thwart collections on it through a referendum effort.

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