Supervisors consider privatizing jail health services - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Supervisors consider privatizing jail health services

JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) -

Jackson County supervisors could make a decision as soon as Tuesday on whether to privatize health care coverage at the local jail. Supervisors said the change could save taxpayer dollars and free the county from legal problems in the future. 

"We want to make sure we are doing the right thing for the inmates during their incarceration." 

Supervisor Melton Harris believes the right thing is hiring a private company to handle healthcare at the Jackson County jail. Currently, a small county staff and an on call doctor care for the inmates. For more serious medical issues, a deputy goes with that inmate to the local hospital, which can be expensive. 

"We are having to pay someone time and a half while they are off with that inmate if you are going to the emergency room or the doctor's office," Harris said.  

Harris said last year the county spent more than a million dollars on salaries, health services, and prescription costs. 

"Medicine, medication was a pretty severe cost too because we were buying medication for a 30 day supply for an inmate when they need only a few days of it," said Harris. 

Supervisors are now considering hiring Health Assurance, LLC in Jackson to take over healthcare at the jail.  

"We will save $300,000 to $400,000 a year," Harris said. "We will have dental coverage, medical coverage, mental coverage, x-rays, and all this will be on site."

Supervisor John McKay is on board with the plan and likes the idea of saving on prescription costs. 

"They have an account with a national firm. If they can buy a seven day supply instead of a 30 day supply somewhere else. If we have an inmate to come in for three days, you are not stuck with 27 days of medicine you have to throw away," McKay said. 

County officials are also counting on the potential move to limit future lawsuits. 

"The private company will take a lot of liability off of the county now if one of the inmates gets the wrong medicine, hurts himself, doesn't get the proper care. We have always been sued in those cases; now it will fall on the liability of this private company, taking the liability away from us."   

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