Thursday, July 31, 2008

Panel Votes to Deny Tax Funding For Inmate Health Care Coverage

By Robin Williams Adams

Published: Wednesday, June 25, 2008 at 1:51 a.m.

BARTOW None of Polk County's half-cent indigent sales tax should be spent on health care for jail inmates, even if they were in the plan before going to jail, members of the Citizens HealthCare Oversight Committee voted last week.

They didn't consider it right to divert money that way when finances were good. And it's just as bad an idea now that the troubled economy has tax revenues shrinking, COC members told Assistant County Manager Lea Ann Thomas.

"I don't believe in supporting inmate care," said Connie Kinnick. "That's not what I campaigned for the half-cent sales tax money (to do)."

Paying health costs for existing plan members while they are in jail was a compromise proposal on Thomas' part, instead of suggesting all prison inmate expenses be shifted to the tax, as some county officials have mentioned in previous years.

The proposal she brought would have cost about $197,000, based on the plan's former eligibility income guidelines, and less now that those guidelines have shrunk to reflect the tight financial situation. The committee voted, 7-1, against the proposal Friday.

The county's general fund is facing a $27 million deficit, Thomas said.

Committee members were sympathetic, but, except for Brian Hinton, unmoved.

"We can't take care of all the (working) indigents who are trying to make it," member Misilene Fulse said.

Even Hinton, the only one voting to pay for the care of jailed plan members, had reservations. He said he fears that would lead to the county trying to get people enrolled in the plan after they were in jail.

That would happen, Dr. Ralph Nobo Jr. said, reminding other members that the committee has always strongly opposed that move.

"This is to help those who need us the most, like the taxpayers voted for," Nobo said.

Although Polk County commissioners have the final authority and "don't have to answer to us," Nobo said, they "have to answer to the people who elected them."

[ Robin Williams Adams can be reached at or 863-802-7558. Read her blog at ]

No comments: