NOWATA COUNTY, Okla. (KTUL) — There's a new problem in Nowata County tonight. County employees are realizing they've been without health insurance for months, including sheriff's deputies who are already dealing with a closed jail.
There's a confusing mess in Nowata County, and it's hurting those who put their lives on the line every day.
"We're 90 days behind on medical insurance," Sheriff Terry Barnett said, who is not insured.
She found out when she started receiving high medical bills in the mail.
"We were never notified that we didn't have any insurance at all," she said.
Barnett believes the county didn't send off the payments in time. It's a scary situation that not only affects her but most every county employee who also haven't been insured since January.
"I actually had a deputy ask me the other day that he had a doctor's appointment, and if he should go," she said.
Commissioner Burke Larue is furious over the issue. He got charged a double premium after his wife underwent surgery in January.
"The county missed the payment for February; that's what kicked us off the insurance," Larue said.
Twelve thousand dollars later with looming medical bills, he wants answers.
"It's like a Domino effect, basically," Larue said.
All of this is happening while the jail remains closed. In fact, the sheriff today is leading a committee to discuss the jail's future.
Inmates removed last month for a carbon monoxide leak are still gone as this committee looks at their options.
"This county is so behind on law enforcement," said Larue.
Best case scenario could be building a new jail or repairing the current one, but until that decision is made, Barnett will house her inmates elsewhere.
"We are putting in contracts with three different counties," said Barnett.
Sheriff Barnett says employees with retirement benefits are also getting charged without actually being enrolled.
She says she's been charged $100 for retirement without being on the program.