Health care navigator saving erie county money

Sheriff’s Innovative Program Saved nearly $50k in First 6-Months

Buffalo, NY – Erie County Sheriff Timothy B. Howard is reporting today the Division of Correctional Health (DOCH) health care navigator program has saved taxpayers an estimated $50,000 since its inception in January 2017.

In January, Sheriff Howard announced three individuals completed the New York State Health Marketplace Navigator program as part of the Sheriff’s Office takeover of the Division of Correctional Health.  The Sheriff also announced a partnership with the Erie County Medical Center to assist with enrolling inmates into health insurance programs.  These DOCH employees ensure inmates admitted to area hospitals are enrolled in an eligible health care payment programs.

The Sheriff’s Navigators are concentrating their efforts toward enrolling inmates with chronic illnesses and who have a high risk of hospitalization; next, the Navigators review all remaining inmates and determine their eligibility.  Through the first six months, the Erie County Sheriff’s Office has enrolled 75 inmates into a health care insurance program.

Between the start of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and December 2016, Erie County spent $1.7 million for hospitalized inmates.  Now, with the innovative Navigator program, the Sheriff’s Office is beginning to relieve Erie County taxpayers a portion of that burden.

Sheriff Timothy Howard explains, “Health care and hospital costs keep increasing, and my office found an innovative way to defray that costly burden from the Sheriff’s budget and the taxpayers of Erie County.  Now, these individuals are part of a larger system where costs can be disbursed instead of landing squarely on the back of Erie County residents.”

Every instance of a hospitalized inmate, the Navigator and ECMC work to enroll the individual into an insurance program.  This collaboration ends the long practice of Erie County directly paying for inmate hospital stays.

Another cost saving measure of this program is the ability to enroll inmates who may have their health insurance policy suspended due to their incarceration.  These individual’s health care costs once were the responsibility of the County, moving forward, the Sheriff’s Office can enroll the inmate in a program until they are released, and the individual’s health insurance program is reinstated.

Sheriff Howard said, “I think it is unfair to the taxpayers to bear the cost of medical expenses when an individual, who already has health insurance, has his or her policy suspended when they are incarcerated even for just a few days.  With an annual population of 20,000 to 21,000 inmates, that is a lot of people without insurance, and if the inmate needed hospitalization, Erie County had to pay the bill.  But now, we can enroll the inmate in a program, and the insurance policy can pay the expenses and not us in Erie County.”