County finds relief from inmate medical bills

Elk County officials will soon catch a break in their budget, as commissioners yesterday discussed Act 22, an initiative that went into effect July 1, which provides help with payments of inmate medical health care bills for eligible inmates."It affects the county because inmates now in county prisons who require any hospitalization will now be able to get their hospitalization funded through the Department of Public Welfare through the public assistance office," said Elk County Prison Warden Gregory J. Gebauer. "In the past, the county was liable for the entire bill, so if we have an inmate hospitalization, we only got what the provider negotiated with us. "This will be a significant cost-reduction measure for the county as far as the inmates and their hospitalization goes."Under the new law, payment for care for inmates of state and county correctional facilities would be limited to Medicaid rates for inpatient care and Medicare fee-for-service rates for outpatient care, according to the Prison Wardens Association website."If an inmate is placed in a hospital, we [prison officials] have to get online to the public assistance website and fill out a simple form," Gebauer said. "If the inmate is eligible then a number will be assigned, we print that form and give it to our physician. "The physician signs it, we fax it to the public assistance office and then that bill is paid for through public assistance in accordance with that office's rates."After that, county government has to reimburse the public assistance office."That's where CCAP [County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania] gets involved," Gebauer said. "CCAP, through PIMCC [Prison Inmate Medical Cost Containment], PIMCC is a branch of CCAP-- PIMCC has agreed to oversee it for all the Pennsylvania counties since it also affects the Department of Corrections. "The medical assistance office didn't want to deal with all 67 counties, but just one agency, PIMCC, stepped up to be the representative for all the counties."PIMCC officials have created escrow accounts for each county in Pennsylvania and they maintain the accounts as well."When the Department of Public Welfare submits a bill to PIMCC-- say if we have a bill for $2,000 for an inpatient hospitalization that medical assistance paid, they would then forward that bill to PIMCC-- PIMCC, out of the escrow account, would go ahead and pay the Department of Public Welfare back-- and that bill would then be passed on to the county," Gebauer said. "All PIMCC is doing is being the go-between for the Department of Public Welfare and the counties."By law, a health care provider can only charge Medical Assistance rates for inpatient hospitalization for inmates.