Daily Astorian

The Hermiston Police Department is looking at hefty medical bills for a rape suspect in custody in a hospital.

Police Chief Jason Edmiston said in an email that officers arrested Michael Gibbs, 47, around 9:15 p.m. Tuesday for first-degree rape, coercion and first-degree sexual abuse. Gibbs knew the victim, Edmiston reported.

During the arrest, Gibbs complained about back pain, so police took him to Good Shepherd Medical Center, Hermiston. Staff there found Gibbs had a preexisting injury that will require surgery.

Edmiston said he could not reveal where the injury is because it could be related to the sex crimes investigation, but he confirmed the injury was not to Gibb's genitals.

Police also have kept Gibbs under constant watch, Edmiston said, another big cost. He said the charges are too serious to merely give Gibbs a citation and let him show up for court later.

Hermiston police Capt. Darryl Johnson explained Oregon law holds the arresting agency responsible for the bill. The Law Enforcement Medical Liability Account under the Oregon Health Plan reimburses medical providers for treatment of "injuries related to law enforcement activity." If a police dog bit a suspect during an arrest, for example, the account would pay the bill.

But Gibbs was in police custody when he went to the hospital, and his medical conditions were not the result of law enforcement activity. "At this point we're on this hook," Johnson said. "We're trying to figure out what we could do."

Local jails face a similar dilemma, shelling out big bucks for inmate medical care. A new law that kicks in Jan. 1, 2015, will compel insurance companies to continue coverage for people in jail. Umatilla County Jail administrator Lt. Stewart Harp spoke about the issue Wednesday at a Umatilla County Commissioner meeting in Pendleton.

Harp said the sheriff's office has $780,000 for inmate medical costs -- $137,000 for outside treatment and the rest for treatment in the jail, such as medical check ups and screenings. The new law could reduce those costs.

Harp told commissioners there is not a lot of information yet about what the law will do, and the state does not have answers, either. A big question, he said, is if jails will be able to bill for medical services.

Umatilla County Community Corrections and county law enforcement have enrolled about 20 offenders into health insurance, Harp said, a move to get on the front end of costs. The jail often gets inmates who have not received medical care for long time, and in some situations the jail must provide care after release.

"Our hope is if this doesn't help us today, it will in the future," Harp said.

Mark Royal, community corrections director, said this is part of Oregon's health change to direct services where they belong. Offenders often seek help first in emergency departments, the most expensive end of care, and this would get them lined up with a primary care provider.

Meanwhile, Gibbs remains in the Hermiston hospital, and police do not know for how long. Edmiston said he is not one bit happy with the situation.

Also, Boardman police Friday arrested Ryan Duwayne Payne, 35, of Hermiston, for raping and abusing a minor. He pleaded not guilty Monday to two counts each of first-degree rape, third-degree rape and first-degree sexual abuse and one count each of first-degree unlawful sexual penetration, first-degree sodomy, third-degree sodomy, second-degree sexual abuse and furnishing liquor to a minor.

The state alleged Payne committed the crimes against a lone victim Dec. 23, 2013, according to Morrow County Circuit Court records. Judge Dan Hill of the Sixth judicial District set Payne's bail at $350,000. Payne's next court appearance is a preliminary hearing Friday.

Contact Phil Wright at pwright@eastoregonian.com or 541-966-0833.

This story originally appeared in East Oregonian.

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