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COLUMBIANA CO. Officials weigh inmate benefits



Published: Sat, February 15, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



A plan to cover inmate prescription costs will be considered next.

By NORMAN LEIGH

VINDICATOR SALEM BUREAU

LISBON -- Columbiana County officials hope that providing health insurance to county jail inmates will save money.

Commissioners agreed Wednesday to provide the insurance through Stratford Insurance of Stow.

Expected annual savings are about $7,300, said Commissioner Sean Logan. That's not counting additional savings that will be realized if the county can work out a separate program to help cover the cost of inmate prescriptions, Logan added.

Last year, the county spent $88,119 to pay for inmate health needs, ranging from doctor visits to hospitalizations.

State law requires counties that jail people to pay for their medical expenses. Medicaid and private insurance will not cover medical needs for individuals while they're serving time.

With no inmate insurance plan in place, the county has been paying full price for medical services, Logan explained. Thousands more dollars were spent on prescriptions.

Commissioners weren't immediately able to provide a cost for inmate prescriptions.

Under the health insurance plan, inmates see a doctor or visit a hospital in an insurance network that has agreed to offer services at a discounted rate.

Stratford Insurance will get a 25 percent share of the difference between the full cost for a medical service and the discounted price.

If a procedure normally costs $150, but under the plan is discounted to $100, Stratford would get 25 percent of the $50 the county saved.

The $7,300 savings estimate factors in the 25 percent fee that goes to Stratford, Logan said. The insurance plan takes effect retroactively to Feb. 1.

Commissioners noted that they're implementing it just in time. Five inmates are pregnant. Should they have the babies while incarcerated, the cost would be substantially more without the insurance plan.

Commissioner President Jim Hoppel said he would like to see federal legislation enacted to require Medicaid to cover the medical costs of its clients while they're incarcerated.

Commissioners noted that the National Association of Counties is lobbying the federal government to implement such legislation.




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