Sheriff Secures $229,000 To Cover Jail Medical Expenses

By Scott Sarvay
By Jeff Neumeyer

September 23, 2010 Updated Sep 23, 2010 at 5:57 PM EDT

ALLEN COUNTY, IN (Indiana's NewsCenter) --- The term "pre-existing conditions" is giving Allen County's sheriff a pain in the pocketbook.

We’re talking about a shortfall in Sheriff Ken Fries' budget for inmate medical expenses.

The sheriff on Thursday requested and received $229,000 in additional monies from county council, in hopes it will cover medical expenses for those incarcerated at the jail for the remainder of 2010.

Fries says he's coming up short, in large part, because of a state law put into effect in July of 2009.

The law lays out formulas for how much sheriff departments across Indiana should pay for certain treatments prescribed for people behind bars.

Fries says the problem is that inmates now have greater coverage when there are pre-existing conditions.

For instance, if a person locked up has a prior medical history of kidney failure or heart trouble, or is pregnant when arrested and remains incarcerated through delivery, a sheriff is on the hook for the hospital bill.

Sheriff Ken Fries/(R) Allen County: " That's why I want to see the law changed. It needs to be specifically in there that we don't cover pre-existing conditions. Our job is to make sure they don't get worse. But we shouldn't have to pay, the taxpayers shouldn't have to pay, for pre-existing medical conditions for people who get arrested."

Fries is hopeful the law will be tweaked in the near future.

He says the author of the 2009 bill has indicated a desire to make some revisions to ease the burden on sheriffs, but hospitals are another player in this debate.

They are more likely to get their money from the sheriff, as opposed to an inmate; so working things out could involve a tug-of-war in the Indiana Legislature.

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