Starke Inmate Healthcare Compliance Brings Potential Perks

Starke County CommissionersThe Starke County Commissioners are taking extra steps to signal their compliance with a state law that looks to provide jail inmates with healthcare benefits.

Two meetings ago, Sheriff Bill Dulin approached the Commissioners about signing an agreement with a company to assist inmates with Medicaid applications. Indiana adopted the law effective in September of last year – which is designed to ensure incarcerated individuals obtain healthcare coverage prior to their release.

Commissioner Kathy Norem says it will work differently if those subject to incarceration are already receiving benefits.

“Inmates who do have Medicaid benefits when they’re arrested,” says Norem. “That has to be reported to Medicaid and their benefits will be suspended while they’re in the jail…it gets them signed up for Medicaid upon their release.”

A small fee is charged to process the applications for jail inmates. Under the state’s law, inmates incarcerated for more than 30 days are required to receive application assistance. It’s optional for those behind bars for less than that period.

While there’s no penalty for failing to comply with the law, there are incentives offered through the state to encourage participation. Currently if Starke County checks an inmate into the hospital for treatment, they are given a bill. If however a boilerplate contract is signed with the state indicating Starke County’s desire to comply, certain inmate medical expenses can be reimbursed.

Norem says there doesn’t seem to be a reason not to participate.

“That bill will be sent to the Family and Social Services Administration for payment by Medicaid,” says Norem. “But if we don’t sign it, we’re still on the hook for it.”

The Commissioners agreed to have County Attorney Marty Lucas review the contract prior to signature.

Norem said she would contact the state requesting the contract. Signature is anticipated at the next County Commissioners meeting.