Washington County officials said Tuesday that more than $2 million in outstanding medical bills for inmates at the county detention center had been taken care of.
According to a press release from the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, Sheriff Keith Sexton and County Mayor Joe Grandy negotiated with Ballad Health to lower that fee to $475,515. The sheriff said these bills were ignored by the previous sheriff’s administration.
He said no one in the Washington County government was aware of the outstanding bills, some of which dated back to 2018, because the previous administration overseeing the prison had not forwarded those bills for payment.
“The mayor and I have made this mess a priority to clean up,” Sexton said in the statement. “Given where we started, this is a fair settlement for the services provided by Ballad.”
Grandy agreed and reportedly said he was “appreciative of the time and effort the sheriff’s office and Ballad put into helping us review medical bills that were several years old.”
Sexton said negotiations began in November after he was appointed acting sheriff following the retirement of Ed Graybeal. It was then that he said he discovered a letter of formal notice from Ballad. Prior to Sexton’s appointment, Ballad had attempted to negotiate payment several times over a period of years with little to no response from the former sheriff’s administration.
“According to Ballad officials, neither the former deputy chief nor the former prison administrator responded to requests from the health care group to negotiate payment,” Sexton said. “On top of that, the county accounting office never received the invoices and never knew anything was owed to Ballad.”
Leighta Laitinen, who resigned as chief deputy on November 21, told reporters in March that there was “most definitely a process in place” to pay those medical bills when she left that office. .
“We’ve seen regular medical bills of $1.5 million to $2 million a year at the jail during my 25 years with the sheriff’s office,” she said, adding that her staff had developed a plan to reduce those. $350,000 medical bills.
Sexton defeated Laitinen and Michael Templeton to win the Republican nomination for sheriff in the May 3 election. He is running unopposed for the post in the August 4 general election ballot.
Laitinen noted at a press conference earlier this year that prison staff didn’t see many of the Ballad bills in question because they went to a former medical provider for the prison.
Laitinen said changes were made, with the help of the county attorney and other county officials, to return the prison health care contract to Southern Health Partners. The former chief deputy said she tried to brief Sexton on the prison’s medical billing situation and the steps her staff had taken to resolve it when she returned her badge and keys on November 22. .
“He told me they would find a solution,” Laitinen said.
However, Sexton said Tuesday that his administration “discovered that while some medical bills to doctors and specialty groups were being submitted for payment, Ballad’s bills were not.” It was like a bill had Ballad’s name on it, they put it aside.
Due to the lack of record keeping by the old administration, Sexton said Ballad had to provide duplicate bills to the county because no one in the sheriff’s department had copies.
At the same time, Ballad Health has never denied urgent or outpatient medical care to an inmate housed in the county detention center, even with the three-year payment term.
“We are happy to settle this matter and move on,” Sexton said.