Inmates' Bills Paid, One Way or Another
BOONE COUNTY - In getting inmates to pay medical bills, different sheriffs departments have different ways to go about it. Maries County Sheriff Department plans to sue inmates over unpaid bills. But at the Boone County Jail, patient healthcare is just part of the budget.
Missouri law says inmates are liable for the cost of their medical care, but some sheriffs say inmates often can't pay. Different counties have adopted different practices to fund appropriate health care.
Boone County Chief Jailer Warren Brewer says Boone County Jail has an agreement with area hospitals and physicians. Boone County agrees to pay area hospitals and physicians any and all inmate-related bills. If inmates can't repay those bills to Boone County, it has the funds to cover it. $70,000 is budgeted for hospital visits, and another $80,000 is budgeted for prescription drugs. Brewer says this arrangement keeps the County out of court while providing better-than-average care for inmates.
Howard County Sheriff Charlie Polson is dealing with an unpaid bill. His department and the Howard County Ambulance District will go to court in January over a $1,400 ambulance bill. An inmate being held at Howard County Jail complained of chest pains, was rushed to a hospital, and later released. Sheriff Polson received the inmate's ambulance bill, but since the man didn't have charges brought against him, Polson can't charge the ambulance fee to him.
Polson says inmate healthcare - and how to pay for it - is a problem in several Missouri counties. When inmates can't pay, counties have to look to taxpayers.