County enforces higher inmate co-pays to combat fake illnesses
Reported By Joseph Pleasant, Reporter - bio | email
WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Tenn. -
A Middle Tennessee jail is fighting frivolous medical calls from inmates by making the inmates pay what the jail staff pays for medical visits.
Previously inside the Williamson County jail inmates could see medical staff for just a $5 co-payment.
If the inmate needed a prescription they paid $1.50.
"Number one there are some inmates who just want out of their cell to come up, but they are not truly sick," Williamson County Jail Administrator Captain Mike Dobbins said. "It's a check and balance system. We want to take care of the people who are truly sick."
The co-pay amount had not changed since 1996 when Captain Dobbins brought it to the attention of the Williamson County Commission.
"Everything we do we want to keep up to date," he said. "When we brought the resolution to the law enforcement committee they asked what I was paying and they set the amount at what we the employees were paying."
Now inmates pay $25 for a medical visit and $10 for a prescription.
Already the jail is seeing a 12% reduction in sick calls, when comparing the first six months of 2012 to the last six months of 2011.
The county is also seeing an increased amount of money collected. From July 1, 2011to December 31, 2011, the county collected $6,684 in medical costs.
From January 1, 2012 to June 30, 2012 the county collected $9,089.
The Williamson County Jail cannot deny medical care to anyone if they are truly sick. If the inmate is considered indigent they are not charged the co-pay.
An indigent inmate is someone who has not had money in their commissary account at the jail for 30 days.
Otherwise jail officials take the medical co-pay from the inmates commissary account.
"Co-pay is paying for probably about a third [of the total cost to the county] if we were able to collect it all," Dobbins said. "We collect at about a 10 or 15% rate."
Captain Dobbins expects to see about 12% in savings each month when compared to the year before.
Williamson County's Jail charges more for its medical visit than other nearby counties.
Davidson County charges inmates $3 for a medical visit. That includes the cost for one prescription. Additional prescriptions cost between $6 and $12.
In Rutherford County inmates pay $5 for medical visits and between $2.25 and $5.50 for prescriptions.
The jail also charges $3.50 for monthly prescriptions.