JONESBOROUGH, Tenn. (WJHL) — Washington County is getting reimbursed by the state of Tennessee for nearly $50,000 of past inmate medical expenses that were part of a massive past due bill from Ballad Health.
The county eventually settled with Ballad on the more than $2 million of past due bills for care of inmates, paying $478,515 earlier this summer. Sexton’s administration discovered the past due bills dating back to at least 2018 when he took office after the Washington County Commission appointed him in November 2021 to fill the remainder of Ed Graybeal’s term following Graybeal’s early retirement.
Some of the bills were for state inmates housed at the Washington County Detention Center. According to a release from the Washington County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO), Sheriff Keith Sexton asked Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy to approach the Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC) and inquire about the possibility of belated reimbursement.
Graybeal’s administration had reportedly failed to file the necessary paperwork for reimbursements, but Grandy serves on the Board of Control for the Tennessee Corrections Institute (TCI). He agreed to check on the possibility of some reimbursement and learned funds were available to cover some previous years’ costs.
“When the Mayor informed me there was a really good chance we could recoup some money, our staff was all over it,” Sexton said in a news release. “Tonya Wheat, our detention center office manager, worked closely with TDOC’s accounting department to make sure everything was submitted correctly. We received notification of the authorized payment on Monday.”
The Washington County Detention Center houses state and federal inmates in addition to local prisoners. The WCSO’s arrangement with the state requires the department to pick up the first $1,000 of a state inmate’s medical care. TDOC covers anything over that amount.
The release said the previous administration’s record-keeping hadn’t been sufficient to get the reimbursement without going back through and verifying several years’ worth of medical charges and identifying whether inmates treated were local, state or federal.
“That process took quite some time, and we had to rely on outside agencies to help us with the records,” Sexton said. “Once everything was gathered and verified from a billing standpoint, staff worked closely with TDOC and received an answer in a little over two weeks. Going forward, I guarantee we will stay on top of this and make sure we are receiving reimbursement from TDOC as intended.”