Sheriff Howard Adds Inmate Healthcare Navigators

Modified: January 21, 2017 2:09pm


Navigators will Enroll Inmates into Healthcare Market, Reducing Jail’s Costs


Buffalo, NY – Erie County Sheriff Timothy B. Howard announced today that within newly formed Erie County Sheriff Office Division of Correctional Health, a healthcare insurance enrollment program has been created to enroll inmates without health insurance into program(s) they may be eligible for.  The Sheriff’s office has trained three individuals, through the New York State Health Marketplace Navigator Training program, to enroll inmates into healthcare programs.  In addition to the Navigator program, Sheriff Howard’s office has partnered with the Erie County Medical Center to enroll inmates housed at that facility, into available insurance programs.


This new program has three major priorities; first, the Navigators will enroll all inmates admitted to an area hospital into an eligible health care insurance program; second, the Navigators will, on a daily basis, review all inmates for chronic health conditions and assist with enrollment (this is a population base with the highest risk of hospitalization); and third, the Navigators will review all remaining inmates and determine their eligibility. 


New York State allows private or employer-based health insurance policies to be suspended if an individual is incarcerated for more than 24-hours, therefore, limiting access to health insurance.  The suspension of insurance benefits places the burden of hospitalization costs onto the Sheriff’s office budget.


Sheriff Timothy B. Howard explains, “The County has paid a combined total of nearly $800,000.00 over the past two years for inmate hospitalization, but now, with my office taking over correctional health, we will enroll all eligible inmates, thereby removing the burden of hospitalization costs from the county.”


Sheriff Howard and the County Executive agreed last year to transfer the oversight of inmate care to the Sheriff’s office and this past fall the Erie County Legislature unanimously passed a resolution authorizing the transfer; as of January 1, 2017, the Sheriff’s office will have oversight of the Division of Correctional Health.  As part of the transfer, Sheriff Howard negotiated the creation of three healthcare navigator positions in order to reduce the County’s burden of inmate healthcare costs. 


Before this program, Erie County was required to pay the entire hospital bill for admitted inmates; however, moving forward the medical costs associated with hospitalization will be paid from health insurance programs, hence, removing the burden from the County’s budget.


The estimated cost savings vary but over the last two years the Erie County Sheriff’s Office paid nearly $800,000.00 for inmate hospitalization costs.  On average, each inmate admitted to the hospital costs the county $1,500.00 per day and the Sheriff’s office houses five inmates at a local hospital each day. 

“Not only will this innovative program reduce costs to the County’s budget,” Sheriff Howard explains, “But it will ensure those leaving the custody of the jail will have healthcare coverage.”

The Navigators have been working over the past few months and are now certified to act as enrollment agents.