Yakima hopes state will cover medical costs for inmates in jail

YAKIMA, Wash. -- They are medical expenses that hit your wallet even when you're not sick. Your taxpayer dollars pay for the medical care inmates receive at the Yakima County Jail.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars of your taxpayer dollars pays for the medical care inmates at the Yakima County Jail get every year.

Amy Gregory said she doesn't mind footing the bill.

"Everyone deserves medical treatment no matter what," said Amy.

However, Yakima is making it a priority to try to remove this burden from the city's budget. Leaders are lobbying to make the state cover these expenses.

"It's always kind of a balancing act we have to go through," said Yakima Police Captain Greg Copeland. "The need to keep these people off the street that have committed serious crimes and the city's ability and the taxpayer's ability to pay for their medical care."

KIMA pulled the numbers to see how big these medical bills get. In 2009, Yakima paid nearly $350,000 for healthcare at the jail. It was lower in 2010 and 2011.

YPD told KIMA the medical costs Yakima taxpayers paid for inmates in the county jail last year and will pay this year are in line with the expenses from 2011.

Greg Copeland worries the current system will affect small agencies. He said if the city didn't have to spend money on medical costs, YPD could hire more officers and buy more equipment.

"They can get saddled with hundreds and thousands of dollars of medical bills," said Greg. "It's not fair when their budget may not be much more than that."

"Maybe someday they will be giving back to society as a taxpayer," said Amy.

There is no formal legislation in the works. Yakima city leaders are lobbying state lawmakers to change the financial responsibility.