Sunday, June 8, 2008

County Officials Hit Capitol Hill for Support of Legislation to Restore the Federal Partnership for County Jails

National Association of Counties’ (NACo) rallied on Capitol Hill last week for support of legislation introduced in the House of Representatives which would save counties hundreds of millions of dollars in medical expenses for individuals who immediately lose their federal health insurance benefits while being detained in county jails.

“The Restoring the Partnership for County Health Care Costs Act of 2008” (H.R. 5698) was introduced recently by Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (D-Fla.), Rep. Rush D. Holt (D-N.J.) and Rep. Michael C. Burgess (R-Texas). All three members spoke at today’s rally pledging to work with NACo to secure additional Congressional support.

The bipartisan bill would prohibit the federal government from stripping individuals of their Medicare, Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) benefits prior to actually being convicted. As a result, this would ensure that local governments, mostly counties, would not be required to cover the medical expenses of jailed individuals who have not yet been convicted of any wrongdoing.

NACo President Eric Coleman, commissioner, Oakland County, Mich., said that restoring the partnership “is more than the name of this particular piece of legislation. It’s a call to Congress and the administration – especially the new administration in January – to restore the partnership between the federal government and counties. I believe H.R. 5698 will go a long way to restore the partnership for the costs of health care in our county jails and reduce the unfair burden placed on our local property taxpayers.”

Rep. Hastings said for the federal government to “stick local governments with the tab for this contradictory policy is just plain wrong. We are excited to work with NACo to get this bill passed and are appreciative to have the support of the National Sheriff’s Association as well.”NACo’s Large Urban County Caucus (LUCC), which represents the collective interest of 100 of the nation’s largest counties, rallied today on Capitol Hill and visited members of Congress seeking cosponsors to the legislation.

“Reps. Hastings, Holt and Burgess are to be commended for their leadership on this issue and we look forward to securing more Congressional support for the bill,” said LUCC Chairman Burrell Ellis, commissioner, DeKalb County, Ga. Also speaking at the rally were Broward County Commissioner Ilene Lieberman and Tarrant County, Texas Judge Glen Whitley.

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