Covenant Health sues Loudon County over $200K medical bill for inmate

By Josh Flory

A dispute over health care coverage for an inmate has prompted a local hospital system to sue Loudon County for more than $200,000.

Covenant Health Corp. filed the suit in Knox County Chancery Court. The suit alleges that in June an individual with the initials J.S.B. was incarcerated in the Loudon County Jail for a violation of probation, and was granted a medical furlough to obtain treatment.

The suit alleged that on June 11, the inmate received treatment from Parkwest Medical Center which resulted in bills totaling more than $236,707. A summary of the expenses was attached to the lawsuit, but was heavily redacted.

The suit alleged that despite repeated demands for payment, Loudon County has failed and refused to pay the bill and refused to provide any documentation as to how the defendant was released. According to the suit, the inmate's legal release date was July 1, 2011, and the medical treatment was provided before that date.

The suit said the inmate was initially transported to Fort Loudon Medical Center by a Loudon County Deputy Sheriff and/or jailer, and that when he was transferred to Parkwest he presented a card indicating he was a Loudon County inmate with coverage through a plan administered for the jail by Humana.

The suit said Loudon County has a constitutional duty to provide and pay for medical care of prisoners and reimburse those providing it, a duty that exists independent of any arrangement with an insurer to provide coverage.

Attorney Robert Bowman said in an email that the county "will defend the suit to the fullest extent of the law."