Sonoma County Sheriffs Support Legislation Changing Contract System for Inmate Medical Care
Law enforcement officials in Sonoma County are supporting state legislation (SB 159) that would encourage sheriff's departments to negotiate contracts for inmate medical care with hospitals, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat reports.
According to the Press Democrat, the Sonoma County Sheriff's Department budgeted $150,000 for medical care not related to mental health treatment for county jail inmates for the budget year that ended in July. To date, the department has spent $622,474, with an estimated $800,000 in bills still outstanding, and officials say the high costs could lead to reduced police patrols, according to the Press Democrat.
Sheriff Bill Cogbill attributed the high medical costs to an aging population of inmates, most of whom do not have health insurance, have substance abuse problems and have experienced violence in the past.
To address the rising costs, the sheriffs are voicing support for SB 159, which would call for hospitals to bill sheriffs' departments and other local law enforcement agencies at Medi-Cal rates if they cannot agree on a contract.
Cogbill said the bill, by Sen. George Runner (R-Antelope Valley), would be "a more effective, cost-efficient way" of providing medical care to inmates.
However, opponents of the bill, including the California Hospital Association, say it would "handicap hospitals that are already financially pressed and place them at a disadvantage in any negotiations."
Hospitals also raised concerns about a practice dubbed "patient dumping," in which hospitals must absorb the costs of caring for patients who are brought in by law enforcement and arrested after their treatment (Hay, Santa Rosa Press Democrat, 8/7).