It’s Your Money: Horry County spends millions on inmate medical services

Horry County spends millions on inmate medical services

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - Medical services for inmates at the J. Reuben Long Detention Center cost Horry County $2.5 million in 2018.

The county contracted with Mediko, a private health care company, to provide everything from doctors’ visits to medications to coordinating outside specialty services and clinics.

“We just do our best to provide all the medical needs for the inmates,” said Major Joey Johnson, the deputy director of the detention center. “A lot of our customers or inmates come in here, they are not receiving a lot of constant medical care like you and I would outside, simply because of their circumstances and simply because they can’t afford it.”

The company provides 18 medical staff members as well as a 24-hour nurse at the center.

Johnson explained the center would have to pay the company additional fees if the inmate population exceeds 800.

While most of the services are funded by the county, inmates can be charged a $5 co-pay for doctor visits. If inmates request to see or receive prescription from a private physician they are responsible for “the prior payment of those services.”

Horry County paid Mediko $209,000 each month this year, according to its check registry.

Mediko began its contract in 2017. Prior to Mediko, Horry County paid around $154,000 a month to Southern Health Partners for similar services, according to the county’s check registry.

Johnson explained the center selected Mediko from submitted proposals based on the staffing it was willing to provide for the cost proposal.

Years ago, county staff members provided medical services.

“It was determined back at that time that it would be more cost efficient to go with a private vendor rather than to have it county operate, as have many counties throughout the state or country have,” Johnson said. “The county is not meant to be a health care organization, so to speak, so that’s the main reason.”

The center is required by state law to provide and fund these services.

“We don’t want anything to happen to the inmates in our facility and if it was my child in this facility, I would want them to receive the necessary medical care to keep them safe as I would hope anyone would. So it’s not just a requirement; it’s what we need to do,” Johnson said.

He added if you spread the $2.5 million across the 1,600 inmates booked annually, services for each inmate equate to $150 a year.

The funds for medical services are drawn from the detention center’s annual budget, which Johnson said is funded by property taxes.

Mediko’s contract accounted for nearly 10 percent of the center’s $24 million budget in 2018.

The center’s budget is estimated to rise by nearly $2 million for the 2019 fiscal year.

The county also anticipates around 1,500 more inmates will be evaluated by doctors and nurses.

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