Inmates pay own medical bills

By Tyana Williams - bio | email

LIVINGSTON, LA (WAFB) - Inmates in Livingston Parish will no longer receive free healthcare in jail. The parish president signed a new ordinance that releases the parish from paying the medical bills of prisoners.

It cost the parish $370,000 to house and care for the 500 prisoners held inside the Livingston Parish Detention Center, but officials think some of the spending could be avoided. Inmates are fed three times a day and the prison has central heating and air. Taxpayers pick up the tab for keeping inmates comfortable, including medical services.

"Ambulance rides - $1,200," said Livingston Parish President Mike Grimmer. "Get there, do all these tests, send us a bill for $2,000. That's all on one inmate. This ordinance says you're going to pay it, as an inmate."

According to Grimmer, those incarcerated have it better than some regular citizens do. The parish took a poll and 92% of those who responded to it indicated it was time to tighten up on the spending. Grimmer said inmates often ask to see the doctor, but then claimed to be fine when it was time for the physician to exam them. He claimed the prisoners use the doctor excuse as a way to visit other inmates.

The new ordinance now states payments will come from an inmate's own account. It includes total costs for medical visits, dental, prescription medication and ambulance calls. A visit to the nurse at the jail costs $10. Asking for over-the-counter medication is 50 cents per dose. The parish reported it is already seeing the savings. There were 43 inmates who wanted to see the doctor on Tuesday, but once they were told they have to pay, only 18 of them still wanted to go.

Officials say four other parishes have called asking for a copy of the inmate payment policy.

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