A new agreement to potentially save taxpayers thousands of dollars each year has been reached between the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office, the Flagler County Board of County Commissioners, the Florida Sheriffs Association and Prime Health Services. The plan involves the verification and negotiation of billing costs for the medical treatment of local prisoners.
It does not involve cutting services–or cutting corners–with inmate health services, a sheriff’s official said.
Under federal law inmates at the Sheriff Perry Hall Inmate Detention Facility are required to be provided medical care while inside the jail. Professionals with PCM Correctional Health currently tend to inmates with conditions that can be treated without leaving the jail. However, if treatment requires a hospital visit or any other treatment not available in the jail the inmates are transported to an outside facility and any medical bills incurred are paid by county government.
Just as individuals are billed, and sometimes–or often–overbilled by health care providers, so are companies and local government agencies. Individuals can contest the billing and often manage to lower the costs. Some individuals who face significant bills at times hire a “billing advocate” to do the job for them. It’s become an industry.
That’s what Prime Health Services will be doing on behalf of the county and the Sheriff’s Office. Bill advocacy 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 more than $238,000. Wanting to reduce these costs but still provide the required care, Sheriff Rick Staly reached out to the Florida Sheriff’s Associations Inmate Medical program that is administered by Prime Corrections. The proposal is expected to save taxpayers an estimated 25 percent of annual medical expenses.
“Our inmates are not the healthiest people because of their lifestyle before their arrest,” Staly said. “This is like having a PPO insurance for inmate medical care. Having a company review every bill that specializes in inmate medical services and reviews them for accuracy and then negotiates the lowest price possible for these services is in the best interest of our county and taxpayers. My team and I will always work to save taxpayer’s money and reduce the cost of our services to the community.”
This new plan, sponsored by the Florida Sheriffs Association, provides the county with an intermediary in Prime Corrections. They provide services that verify the proper coding of medical bills and then apply a discounted rate contracted between them and the medical provider, just like a PPO insurance carrier. Prime Corrections has contracts in place with many providers across the State of Florida. If a contract doesn’t already exist, Prime Corrections negotiates directly with the provider to discuss the best-discounted price for services rendered.
“Sheriff Staly, through the Florida Sheriffs Association, brought to our attention the cost savings potential of contracting with Prime Health Services because they manage a PPO specifically for inmates and the correctional health care industry,” Flagler County Administrator Heidi Petito said. “It absolutely makes sense to contract with a company that has expertise in this niche of health care that comes with the support of the state law enforcement association.”
The county has agreed to pay Prime Health Services a small fee of the total they save Flagler County. Savings is defined as the difference between billed medical provider charges and the final amount the medical provider agrees to accept through services rendered by Prime Health Services. No savings, no fees.