Parish inmates running up bill

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 23, 2010

NATCHEZ — The Concordia Parish Police Jury isn’t in the pharmacy business, and it wants to stop being used as one.

The jury voted Monday night to request all local pharmacies with which the jury does business supply a quantity and doctor’s name on invoices for prescriptions filled for parish inmates.

Police juror Jimmy Jernigan said the bill for some individual prescriptions for inmates is more than $400 and bills for medical treatment can easily reach $5,000 for one emergency room visit.

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Inmates with Medicare or Medicaid coverage do not cost the parish for medical treatment, but inmates without medical insurance coverage do.

Concordia Parish District Attorney Brad Burget said running up expensive medical and pharmacy bills is a tactic inmates will use to move their court proceedings along faster or to try to get a shorter sentence.

“Usually this problem comes from some of the more experienced criminals,” Burget said. “They think if they can start costing the parish money, they’ll get out of jail quicker. It is a game they play.”

Jernigan said in a time when money is tight for the police jury, it is important that this ongoing problem be nixed. Jernigan also asked if it would be possible for inmates to be taken to the Concordia Parish Correctional Facility on Louisiana 15 where a doctor and nurse are already contractually employed to provide medical services to inmates housed at that facility.

Burget said he would have to look into that issue, but that governmental bodies are getting creative in ways to save money.

Burget said if a problem is identified soon enough, he can work within his capacity to move the court proceedings along at a faster pace to get inmates sentenced and sometimes transferred to department of corrections sentences, but waiting until the jury gets a bill is too late.

That is why he is working with Concordia Parish Sheriff Randy Maxwell to identify possible problems before the bill arrives.

“The sheriff and I have talked about this quite often,” Burget said. “I have also talked to the wardens about letting me know when they think this is going on so we can do something about the problem sooner.”

Not offering medical treatment is not an option, Burget said, since the parish could be held liable for not providing care.

“It’s a catch 22,” Burget said. “Sometimes the claim is going to be legitimate, and sometimes it is going to be BS. It is catching those that are BS that we are trying hard to do.”

Burget said he does have one idea on how to curb the problem.

He said when he knows an inmate has incurred large medical bills, he requests that repayment of those expenses be added to the sentence the inmate receives.

“Whenever you get a bill, let me know so I can go and try to get that money back for the parish,” he said.