Flagler Sheriff and the county get their own attorney to help control inmate health costs
A new agreement aimed at saving taxpayers thousands of dollars each year has been reached between the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office, the Flagler County Board of Commissioners, the Florida Sheriffs Association and Prime Health Services. The plan involves verifying and negotiating billing costs for medical treatment of local inmates.
This does not involve cutting services — or cutting corners — with inmate health services, a sheriff’s official said.
Under federal law, inmates at the Perry Hall Sheriff’s Detention Center must receive medical treatment inside the jail. PCM correctional health professionals currently care for inmates whose conditions can be treated without leaving the prison. However, if treatment requires a hospital visit or any other treatment not available in the jail, inmates are transported to an outside facility and any medical bills incurred are paid by the county government.
Just as individuals are billed, and sometimes — or often — overbilled by healthcare providers, so are businesses and local government agencies. Individuals can dispute the billing and often succeed in lowering the costs. Some people facing large bills sometimes hire a “billing lawyer” to do the work for them. It has become an industry.
This is what Prime Health Services will do on behalf of the county and the sheriff’s office. Defending the bill does not affect services rendered, as those services have already been rendered.
In fiscal year 2020, Flagler County paid more than $142,000 in inmate medical bills. In fiscal year 2021, the number was over $238,000. Wanting to reduce those costs while providing the care needed, Sheriff Rick Staly contacted the Florida Sheriff’s Associations Inmate Medical Program, administered by Prime Corrections. The proposal is expected to save taxpayers about 25% of annual medical expenses.
“Our inmates aren’t the healthiest people because of their lifestyle before they were arrested,” Staly said. “It’s like having PPO insurance for inmate medical care. Having a company that reviews every bill that specializes in inmate medical services and reviews them for accuracy, then negotiates the lowest possible price for those services is in the best interest of our county and the taxpayers. My team and I will always work to save taxpayers money and reduce the cost of our community services.
This new plan, sponsored by the Florida Sheriffs Association, provides the county with an intermediary in Prime Corrections. They provide services that verify the correct coding of medical bills and then apply a discounted rate contracted between them and the medical provider, much like a PPO insurance company. Prime Corrections has contracts in place with many vendors across the state of Florida. If a contract does not already exist, Prime Corrections negotiates directly with the supplier to discuss the most advantageous price for the services rendered.
“Sheriff Staly, through the Florida Sheriffs Association, brought to our attention the cost savings potential of contracting with Prime Health Services as they run a PPO specifically for inmates and industry correctional health care,” said Flagler County Administrator Heidi Petito. “It absolutely makes sense to contract with a company that has expertise in this healthcare niche that comes with the support of the state law enforcement association.”
The county agreed to pay Prime Health Services a small fee of the total they saved in Flagler County. Savings is defined as the difference between the fees charged by the medical provider and the final amount that the medical provider agrees to accept through the services rendered by Prime Health Services. No savings, no fees.