A new state law is expected to provide relief to government budgets in mandated health care costs for inmates, a press release said.
Tennessee Senator Mike Bell, R-Riceville, and Anderson County Mayor Terry Frank recently held a news conference in Knoxville to discuss the benefits to taxpayers that will result from the legislation, the release said. They were joined by Candace Allen from the Helen Ross McNabb Center.
The press release said the legislation was a result of a brainstorming session sponsored by the Tennessee Association of Professional Bail Agents in East Tennessee late last year. Sheriffs, district attorneys, county executives, judges, corrections administrators, health professionals, and bail bondsmen representing more than 32 Tennessee counties gathered to discuss the shared concern of jail overcrowding and costs threatening county budgets across the state.
“This new law sets out a framework and legal basis for counties to reduce medical expenses for inmates who receive medical care outside of a jail,” said Bell, who is chairman of the Senate Government Operations Committee. “While it does not solve all the issues surrounding the rapidly- increasing costs of incarceration in Tennessee, it will provide some immediate relief to government budgets that are spending more to address these issues at the detriment of other needs.”
Currently, TennCare is terminated upon a prisoner’s incarceration in state and local jails, meaning taxpayers are required to pay the bill if he or she is transported to a medical facility for treatment.
The new law allows the state and local government to seek reimbursement under Medicaid, with the federal government picking up a maiority of the costs for Medicaid-eligible inmates who are awaiting trial but remain incarcerated because they cannot make bail, as well as those who are admitted to inpatient health care facilities for more ihan 24 hours. lt also authorizes local governments to “piggy-back” on state contracts to manage pharmacy benefits, with the savings being remitted back to them, the release said.
“State prisons and county jails are an ever-expanding cost that governments across Tennessee are struggling to manage,” Frank said. “This new law allows us to tap into federal funds which are available to help with these constitutionally mandated needs, to give our local taxpayers relief.”
Bell said about a dozen states are already receiving reimbursements under these scenarios, and a dozen more are considering similar measures. Similar legislation approved in North Carolina saved taxpayers in that state more than $100 million in healthcare costs for prisoners, the release said.
See the full press release and background information here: Inmate Health Care Costs.
Besides Bell and Frank, others who attended the press conference included Senator Becky Duncan Massey, R-Knoxville; Representative John Ragan, R-Oak Ridge, Knox County Sheriff J.J. Jones, Knox County Sheriff’s Assistant Chief Deputy Lee Tramel, Tennessee Association of Professional Bail Agents President Charlie White, and lobbyist William “Bill” Nolan.