Unlocking stories behind bars

Source: Susannah Nesmith, United States Project, July 25, 2013

…Yet despite problematic records in other states, and even in Florida, the two companies privatizing healthcare at Florida prisons—Corizon Inc. and Wexford Health Sources—have received little recent scrutiny here.

The Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald statehouse bureau has written about the court fight to stop the privatization, which state workers ultimately lost in June. The Times/Herald team has also noted that Corizon, the company that is about to take over healthcare at every Florida prison north of Palm Beach, to the tune of $230 million, has faced problems with contracts “from Maine to Idaho.”

But these companies can be hard to track. Corizon was created in 2011 with the merger of Prison Health Services and Correctional Medical Services, companies that have had their own issues in the past. For example, Prison Health Services had to pay $5 million in fines and restitution in 2004 to resolve a Florida Medicaid fraud case, and has periodically lost contracts around the country because of concerns about cost overruns or problems with service. Correctional Medical Services has had its own difficulties in other states, and even in Florida. It has lost or walked away from contracts as close to home for Florida reporters as Palm Beach County.

The for-profit prison healthcare industry is hard to penetrate, with tangled relationships and complex histories. A year before Palm Beach County dumped CMS in favor of a local company, Armor Correctional Health Services, Broward County dumped another company, Wexford Health Sources, in favor of Armor (which also has a contract with Hillsborough County jails). Armor was founded by the founder of Prison Health Services, and is “politically connected,” according to a story this month by The Tampa Bay Times that looked at the challenges and high costs of jail healthcare….