JONESBOROUGH, Tenn. (WJHL) — Washington County, Tennessee officials on Tuesday announced that the once $2 million of unpaid medical bills from Ballad Health are considered paid off.
A release from county leaders revealed Sheriff Keith Sexton and Mayor Joe Grandy negotiated with Ballad officials, slashing the more-than-$2-million bill in half before bringing that amount down further to $478,515 — allowing the county to pay that bill in full.
“The Mayor and I made this mess a priority to clean up,” Sexton stated in the release. “Considering where we started, this is a fair settlement for the services that were provided by Ballad.”
Current county leaders claimed that former Sheriff Ed Graybeal’s administration failed to forward the invoices to be paid — with some of the bills dating back to 2018.
“Overall, I am pleased with the settlement, and appreciative of the amount of time and effort the Sheriff’s Office and Ballad put in to helping us look at medical bills that were several years old,” said Grandy. “This is a resolution that shows when you all sit down in an environment of partnership, you can to come to an amicable solution.”
Months of negotiation efforts began last November when Ballad Health informed the incoming sheriff of an outstanding inmate medical bill — the same day Sexton was later sworn into the role on the 22nd of that month. Previously, former Chief Deputy and later Interim Sheriff Leighta Laitinen filled the shoes of Graybeal, who retired from the position over a year before his term was set to end.
The five-page November letter from Ballad claimed that the notice followed “a multitude of unsuccessful calls, letters and meetings to resolve the matter.”
“According to Ballad officials, neither the former Chief Deputy nor former Jail Administrator responded to requests from the healthcare group to negotiate payment,” Sexton said. “On top of that, the County’s accounting office never received the invoices nor knew anything was past due to Ballad.”
The release states that despite a “three year lapse in payment,” Ballad did not deny emergency or outpatient care to any inmates at the Washington County Detention Center.
Laitinen, however, told News Channel 11 that it had been she and her team who negotiated the bill down and referred to the outstanding expenses as a miscommunication.
“We were not getting the bills; they were going directly to the contract medical company,” Laitinen said in a previous interview. “[Ballad was] not sending them to us. When we found that out, that’s when Ballad Health called us and said, ‘You all owe us $2 million.'”
Sexton first brought the news to light at a press conference in March.
In a statement to News Channel 11, Ballad said the health system is “grateful to Sheriff Sexton and Mayor Grandy for their serious effort to resolve this long-standing issue.”
“They did not create it, but they felt it was important to solve it,” Ballad officials stated. “The settlement is fair. More importantly, we look forward to our continued partnership in the future as we all seek to serve the people of Washington County.
“Ballad Health and Washington County have worked together to reduce the cost of health care for county employees and inmates, and we look forward to continuing this effort together.”