Healthcare costs rise at TC jail

Published 7:04 pm Thursday, August 23, 2018

Local employers aren’t the only ones facing rising healthcare costs. On Tuesday, Troup County agreed to healthcare rates for jail inmates almost double that of the previous fiscal year.

The Troup County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a contract for WeCare TLC to continue providing services to the Troup County Jail on Tuesday. However, it is unclear how long the county will remain with the healthcare provider, following a conversation on compensation that has almost doubled since the last contract to $95,889 a month to the provider. The additional funding will come from Troup County’s contingency fund.

“You are going to notice that our total monthly compensation has gone up,” Assistant County Manager Eric Mosley said during a work session Thursday. “It has actually almost doubled, primarily to take account for the professional liability insurance that we happened to incur with them as part of our overall premium.”

As the healthcare provider for the jail, WeCare provides a doctor for 8 hours a week, four licensed practitioner nurses for 40 hours a week each, a licensed registered nurse for 40 hours a week, a dentist for 8 hours a week and a psychiatrist for 2 hours a week. The contract also lists a “CL” as employed for 20 hours a wee, but it was unclear what the acronym stands for. Neither the sheriff’s office or county could confirm what the position was, and a call to WellCare was not returned on Thursday. 

Mosley said that there was about 500 inmates in the jail as of last week, and the county is required to provide that level of care to inmates.

“We believe that we have saved a lot of money working with them to help reduce overall cost of our inmates in our care, but in the end, we’ve had a few lawsuits in reference to WeCare that has driven up the cost of liability insurance that we happen to share with them,” Mosley said. “If you see any increase, that is primarily where that increase is coming from.”

Commissioner Lewis Davis asked if other providers had been considered and asked if the county could easily move to another provider if a better rate for comparable services is found. Mosley said that he thought the best option for the county was to continue using WeCare while reaching out to other service providers.

“We believe that this is a very fair number to what other counties are paying for care within a jail based on our numbers,” Mosley said. “The thing that alarms me is that we are WeCare’s only jail anywhere in the nation, so I think when they got into the contract, they probably didn’t really know what they were getting themselves into. But, they have been a great partner with us for six to eight years. As we move forward, we will always be looking at our options on how we can save money and provide overall better care for our inmates.”

Commissioner Morris Jones asked if the program had saved the county on emergency room costs, and Mosley confirmed it had.

County Manager Tod Tentler confirmed during both meetings that there is a clause in the contract that would allow the county out of the yearlong contract in deemed necessary or preferable. 

The Troup County Board of Commissioners will meet again on Tuesday, Aug. 30 at 9 a.m. at 100 Ridley Avenue.