Reducing inmate medical costs

DAVID B SHOAREager to see House Bill 263 calendared for its first committee, St Johns County Sheriff David B. Shoar was “encouraged” Wednesday when the Florida Senate unanimously passed a companion bill limiting what local governments have to pay for inmate hospital costs.

During the last round of budget hearings, Shoar was an advocate for reform in the way his agency was held responsible for paying inmate hospital bills if an inmate has no insurance or no other means of paying.

Shoar explained that this holds true, even for medical bills incurred for injuries sustained when an inmate is arrested. “Emergency room charges are a large part of our costs,” Shoar said. Under Senate Bill 452, that was passed, the Sheriff’s Office would only be obligated to pay 75%, or less, of what the hospital charged for emergency room visits.

The Sheriff pointed out that when a suspect is taken into custody, until their case is disposed of in court, the charges are dropped, or they are released on bond, under current laws, his agency is ultimately responsible for the payment of the cost of medical treatment — even for any pre-existing conditions.

SB-452 limits a county government’s obligation for inmate medical expenses to 10% above the allowable Medicare rate — but the percentage can increase up to 25% if the hospital is reported to be operating at a loss.

Sheriffs around the state, as well as the Florida Association of Counties, are still trying to get the bill to the House floor.

Photo credits: © 2012 Historic City News staff photographer

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