How many billions of dollars does it cost taxpayers to keep Kansas and Missouri prisoners healthy?

Source: The Kansas City Star Editorial Board, February 1, 2018

On Monday, a Kansas legislative committee on corrections got answers to questions they should have been asking all along. Rep. J. Russell Jennings, Chairman of the Committee on Corrections and Juvenile Justice Oversight, called the hearing after The Star detailed the nearly $2 billion Missouri and Kansas will pay to Corizon Health over a decade to provide health care to inmates. Despite the cost to taxpayers, legislative oversight has been lax, particularly in Missouri. That needs to change. The Tennessee-based company has been sued more than 280 times by inmates in Missouri and Kansas, which should be a red flag for lawmakers. … At Jennings’ request, the Kansas Department of Corrections detailed how a University of Kansas Medical Center team conducts monthly reviews of the care being provided to the state’s approximately 9,800 inmates at a cost of about $68 million a year. … The committee learned that Corizon was penalized more than $1.7 million in 2017 for infractions, including failing to meet staffing or compliance standards for mental health treatment. Corizon has been sued 48 times in Kansas since 2014. So far, there have been no adjudications, settlements or findings against the state, the University of Kansas Medical Center or Corizon. … Missouri has been even less responsive. A state grant once paid a nursing professor to oversee the contract. But then Corizon was allowed to begin paying the fee. So the person who was scrutinizing Corizon was paid by Corizon. ….

What is $2 billion buying Kansas and Missouri in prison health care? Few people know
Source: Andy Marso, Kansas City Star, January 21, 2018

Shermaine Walker’s son died of a rare fungal brain infection last year in a Kansas prison, and since then she’s been trying to find out whether the prison’s private health care contractor could have stopped it. That same contractor, Corizon Health, oversees inmate care in Missouri prisons. A state legislator there contends Corizon staff misdiagnosed his uncle’s cancer. … Corizon’s contracts with the corrections departments of Kansas and Missouri are worth almost $2 billion combined over 10 years — yet there’s little transparency about how that money is being spent. … As the largest for-profit prison health care provider in the country, Corizon is a lightning-rod for criticism from prisoners, their family members, the American Civil Liberties Union and others who say it takes public money and provides little care. All in an effort, they say, to maximize its profits. Hundreds of inmates in Missouri and Kansas have filed suits against the company alleging substandard care. … But only a few people outside of the prisons know what’s going on inside the infirmaries. The Kansas Department of Corrections, or KDOC, has a small clinical team from the University of Kansas Medical Center reviewing Corizon’s work. And the department collects some data on services provided and medical outcomes. The Missouri Department of Corrections does not. Neither state produced any data in response to requests from The Star. … Karen Pojmann, the communications director for the Missouri Department of Corrections, said Corizon gives no annual report to the department and there’s no way for the department to provide data on inmate health outcomes. …

… Karen Russo, a consultant for families of inmates, has for decades studied both Corizon and its previous iteration as Correctional Medical Services. … Russo, the founder of the Wrongful Death and Injury Institute in Kansas City, said the company has a checkered past that state leaders ignore because contracting out provides them some insulation from lawsuits. … But Corizon is now coming under more scrutiny in both Kansas and Missouri. In response to Shermaine Walker’s story about her son’s brain infection death, Kansas Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley from Topeka said the state should consider not renewing the company’s contract when it comes up in July 2019. Missourinet, an online news consortium of radio stations, reported in February that some Democrats in the Missouri Legislature are also having second thoughts about Corizon. … In Kansas and Missouri, 283 medical malpractice lawsuits have been filed against Corizon since 2011, including one brought by Walker that’s still pending. …