Tomlinson to talk about $129k overdue jail medical bills - WRBL

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Muscogee County Sheriff's Office has $900k in unpaid jail medical bills

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COLUMBUS, Ga. -

The Muscogee County Sheriff's Office is $1.8 million over budget for Fiscal Year 2013. Around $900,000 of that amount is because of unpaid medical bills, a lot of which are overdue.

"When this hit it was really a surprise, the magnitude of it," Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson expressed. The city now has to pay the unexpected amount, which includes medical bills dating back to June 2012.

The Finance Department said they are still processing at least 50 invoices for medical supplies and companies that provide nurses and doctors for the clinics. They had been held in the sheriff's department, but on July 29 they were turned over to city finance administrators. It comes about a month after the Fiscal Year 2013 budget was adopted.

"I think had it been turned in then we could have seen the sheriff's budget was very likely to be running over significantly and we hope we would have been able to intervene and assist," the mayor said. Normally, she said the bills have been turned in later and the city's been able to cover the overage with no problem. But in financially tight times it's sticking out like a sore thumb. "That is not a good practice... it's certainly one we need to stop."

Instead, the city is facing a $330,000 pharmaceutical bill that is past due 90 days. "It's very difficult to understand why that was not paid," Mayor Tomlinson said.

Muscogee County Sheriff John Darr has not spoken publicly about the matter. A sheriff's office representative told News 3 Darr thought it was best to speak about it after he appears before city council on Aug. 20 to discuss it.

Tomlinson said medical bills are some of the hardest to process and for some reason the sheriff's department held onto some of them longer than others and got behind. But the mayor also said some of the approved invoices are raising eyebrows and maybe should have been processed at a lower rate or through the city's Medical Center contract. "We have the money to cover it. It just whether or not it comes out of our reserve, comes from the savings in other departments," Mayor Tomlinson said.

Later this month council will start having all large departments, including the sheriff's office, to come before them to brainstorm more efficient budget methods.

The mayor has already identified some things she'd like to explore. "Whether or not the finance department should be the one that's overseeing some of the elected officials' invoices," Tomlinson said.

The sheriff's department is currently working on a privatization effort with a clinic that is supposed to help lower inmate healthcare costs.

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