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Haywood jail hopes to trim inmate health care costs

The health care bills rolling into the Haywood County jail for inmate care might now be slashed by up to 25 percent after the sheriff’s office contracted with a company who will ferret out discounts on the county’s behalf.

Currently, the county pays full sticker price for all health care given to inmates, and since they’re legally obliged to foot the bill for any inmate treatment, it can get pricey.

Sherriff Bobby Suttles told county commissioners that $20,000 a year was on the low end of what they might expect to pay. In a year when an inmate needs major medical care, such as open-heart surgery, costs can skyrocket to more than $100,000.

What the company, Correctional Risk Services out of Brentwood, Tenn., would do is comb through the bills looking for mistakes, such as being billed for a higher priced procedure or more treatment than an inmate actually received.

A company spokesman said that they save counties an average of 20 to 25 percent. They work solely on commission, keeping 30 percent of any savings that are found.

In addition to checking the bills for accuracy, the company will also be able to save the county from shelling out for full-price procedures by bringing them into a PPO — preferred provider organization — which would give the county the same kind of discounts private citizens can get by being under a medical insurance plan.

If the county sees savings from the contract, the majority would be from such markdowns.

Suttles characterized this as a win-win situation for the county. If no reductions are found, they lose nothing, and whatever savings they do glean will be a big help to the sheriff’s healthcare budget, which is, he said, notoriously hard to manage.

“Right now, we’re holding $8,000 worth of bills,” said Suttles. “It’s just hard to budget for the unknown.”

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