Indiana council could turn inmate medical bills over to professional claims consultant

The Lake County Sheriff's Department in Crown Point, Ind., may soon no longer handle inmate medical bills, The Times of Northwest Indiana reported.

The Lake County Council has previously stated it plans to outsource payment responsibilities for inmate care to a professional claims consultant, the report states.

Councilman David Hamm told The Times of Northwest Indiana they are considering the switch to cut down the number of overdue bills.

"Last council meeting we paid claims from 2013, 2014 and 2015 and then [Lake County Sheriff John Buncich] told us he has another $1 million in claims on his desk," Councilman Hamm said. "A number of people kicked around the idea treating inmates' bills the same as (county government) employees claims and handing it over to a professional claims manager."

But the sheriff claims his employees, along with the jail's medical director, his staff and the county's professional claims management vendor, have processed 4,163 medical bills since 2009, and have reduced what the county would have paid by nearly three quarters, according to the report. 

The sheriff also claims the problem, in part, is that many medical vendors delay sending out a bill, and a single visit to an emergency room can result in bills from as many as five separate vendors.

He said eliminating his centralized in-house billing staff would likely add more than $290,000 annually to the eventual cost of medical care, according to the report.

The Lake County Council could act on the matter as early as Tuesday.


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