Escambia County May Outsource Medical Care for County Inmates

Escambia County is looking to find cheaper ways to provide medical care to county jail inmates as it faces increasing costs.

Earlier this month, the county received an unsolicited proposal from NaphCare Inc., a company based in Birmingham, Alabama, to outsource medical care to the Escambia County Jail.

The company provides similar services to three other counties in Florida: Hillsborough, Manatee and Sarasota counties.

The company met with correctional officials last year and on September 3 sent out a proposal saying it could provide medical care to county inmates at a cost of $ 7 million in the first year, 7.2 million dollars the second year and 7.5 million dollars the third year under three years. one year contract. He also said he could save the county money on the cost of off-site medical treatment for inmates and highlighted his operations in Hillsborough County, where he said off-site treatment costs had declined 25% in four years there.

According to information provided by Escambia County Director of Corrections Rich Powell, the county’s total medical costs for the jail in 2020 were $ 7.1 million, including offsite visits.

NaphCare’s proposal would still require the county to pay for off-site visits, which Powell said amounted to $ 3.4 million in 2020.

The company also said it would cut county spending on prescription drugs for inmates by renegotiating prices under a wholesale model.

Escambia County Commissioner Jeff Bergosh told the News Journal on Tuesday that he believes the county should consider initiating the procurement process to seek proposals similar to NaphCare’s in order to find ways to save money. county money.

“We can save money and get better patient care if we’re willing to outsource,” Bergosh said. “Now I know for some people it’s a dirty word – outsourcing – outsourcing is basically smart budgeting from a government perspective. “

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Bergosh said the county is already contracting out temporary workers through Blue Arbor Inc.

Powell told the commission at a September 16 meeting that the county continues to see rising medical costs for inmates.

Powell said the increases were due to an increase in the severity of illnesses the county is seeing, such as several cancer patients and inmates with kidney failure who require weekly dialysis.

“The frequency of need is only increasing rapidly,” said Powell.

Currently, inmates requiring off-site care must be transported to a supervised clinic, which Bergosh says increases the cost of additional staff time.

The county opened its new $ 142 million Escambia County Correctional Center earlier this year, and the new building includes an infirmary, but currently the county does not have a dialysis machine.

Bergosh said additional savings could come from the company bringing its own equipment to provide treatments such as dialysis in prison and avoid expensive travel.

“I prefer instead of renting tools from Home Depot, if I use it everyday I’ll buy the tool,” Bergosh said. “So buy the dialysis machine, buy a doctor, buy a staff.”

Commission Chairman Robert Bender said he is waiting to hear staff comments on the NaphCare proposal, but is working with the Florida Association of Counties on a proposal to allow inmates eligible for Medicaid to ” have access to these advantages.

“When inmates go to jail, if they have Medicaid, they can lose it even before they are sentenced,” Bender said.

In a brief discussion on September 16, all of the commissioners agreed that the increasing cost of medical expenses at the prison is an issue that must be addressed.

In an email to the News Journal, Powell said he was still reviewing the proposal and had not fully assessed it. He said that once he does, he will meet with each of the county commissioners to brief them on it.

Since NaphCare’s proposal was unsolicited, the county would have to advertise proposals, known as a request for proposal or RFP.

Bergosh said he plans to take the action at a meeting in October.

“(NaphCare has) actually done the taxpayers of Escambia County a favor by bringing it in because now they’ve opened my eyes,” Bergosh said. “And I will ask for an RFP.”

Jim Little can be reached at [email protected] and 850-208-9827.

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