County saving money on inmate healthcare

COLUMBIA CITY — The Whitley County Commissioners heard earlier this month that deciding to put the health of county jail inmates in the hands of an outside company instead of providing inmate health care in-house has been money well spent.County Attorney Dan Sigler and Sheriff Mark Hodges gave a report to the three-man board Feb. 7 about the current health plan for prisoners of the county jail.According to Whitley County Auditor Jennifer McGuire, the county hired healthcare firm Health Professionals LTD of Greenwood Village, Colo. in 2009.Prior to that, the county footed the bill to give medical treatment to prisoners in jail, she said.Sigler and Hodges gave the presentation after eyebrows were raised by the commissioners about the $130,000 price tag for the service.“We heard this number and thought ‘that can’t be,’” said Commissioner Don Amber.Hodges said the plan with HPL costs the county between $12,000 and $13,000 monthly. He said the cost for the county to take care of prisoners was around $200,000.“We’re way under that now,” said Hodges.“After we looked at the whole thing, it did turn out to be a bargain and no one was more surprised than me,” said Amber.The Colorado firm provides a part-time nurse who is in the jail five hours a day, according to Hodges.A physician is also available on an as-needed basis, Hodges said.The biggest plus, according to Sigler, is the county’s reduced liability.He reported a past case where an inmate complained that his medical care was lacking.“It was a finding that we were negligent,” said Sigler, adding that in a future such case, “they (HPL) have the liability.”The plan calls for a coverage cap of $14,500 per inmate.Amber said the issue is a big one with prisoners based on their quality of life.“There are a lot of issues when you get that caliber of person incarcerated,” he said.