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Another legal challenge to prison health care privatization looms

by Dara Kam | September 11th, 2012

The union representing state workers has vowed to file another lawsuit if a legislative committee approves the privatization of all prison health care services tomorrow.

Lawyers for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees contend the move to outsource the health care for Florida’s 100,000 inmates is illegal.

The Joint Legislative Budget Commission is slated tomorrow to vote on a request from the Department of Corrections to transfer money within the agency to pay for contracts with two private companies, Wexford Health Sources and Corizon. The state now spends about $350 million a year on prison health care, including drugs. The agency plans to begin the privatization, affecting about 2,600 employees, on Jan. 1.

The GOP-dominated legislature last year gave the corrections department permission to outsource the prison health care privatization in budget “proviso” language, but the privatization has been tied up in court. AFSCME and the Florida Nurses’ Association challenged the privatization, saying it was a major policy change that needed to be approved in a stand-alone bill. A judge thwarted a similar attempt to privatize a large portion of the state’s prisons last year, and lawmakers were unable to pass a prison privatization bill during the legislative session that ended in March.

A Leon County circuit judge did not rule on the health care privatization lawsuit because the proviso language expired with the June 30 end of the 2011-12 fiscal year.

Even without the proviso language, the agency contends that existing state law gives it permission to privatize certain functions. But Tom Brooks, a lawyer for AFSCME, said that the language of the statue restricts those efforts to counties, municipalities, non-profit corporations and other similar entities. Brooks says that means the law specifically excluded for-profit corporations like Corizon and Wexford.

And Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich called the move an “overreach” because the legislative budget panel does not have the authority to approve what she called a major policy change, especially after the prison privatization was shot down earlier this year.

“To try and ram it through the Legislative Budget Commission when the leadership certainly knows the bill was defeated…flies in the face of what the legislature did,” Rich, D-Weston, said in a telephone conference call with reporters this morning.

The corrections department has experimented with privatizing prison health care for more than a decade, but each time the contracts were ended by either the vendors or the state.

In 2000, Wexford was awarded five-year contract with the state to provide health services to South Florida prisons. The company successfully sued the state to get a rate increase, and the state did not renew the contract when it expired.

AFSCME spokesman Doug Martin raised questions about whether the state would save money on the contracts even now, pointing to language included in the proposal to be voted on tomorrow.

“While the statewide savings will remain the same, the savings per contract cannot be validated at this time,” the proposal reads.

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9 Responses to “Another legal challenge to prison health care privatization looms”

  1. DO IT! Says:

    If it saves taxpayers money, then do it!

    Private companies can hire these guards and the public can still be protected.

    Get the government OUT of housing and watching criminals!

  2. DON'T DO IT! Says:

    Privatization has cost taxpayers more money than they know. There’s a reason why it has been tried 3 times in the past 10 years and not worked. In fact, it costs more for the private contractors to “house and watch criminals” than it costs the state.

    Private companies are only in it to make money. So in this case, it’s about health care for criminals. Maybe people who don’t like criminals should write their congressman to take away health care for criminals. Until then, it’s cheaper when the state does it.

  3. Forgone Conclusion Says:

    Just privatize everything. That way we don’t need no govment. That’s the GOP/Teabaggers way. Govment bad, bad bad. Corporations good, good, good. After all, corporations are people right mittens? Why shouldn’t corporations make money off of jails, schools and everything else. Capitalism, it’s a wonderful thing!

  4. ezra David Says:

    PRIVATIZATION COSTS TOO MUCH AND KILLS SMALL BUSINESSES.

    We staff health care professionals to Florida State Prisons as do many other small staffing Companies. If Corizon and Wexford succeed in securing this contract, that will automatically put us and many other small staffing businesses out of business. We know it because we have met with them and they have categorically informed us that they will not only take over our staff but also will NOT even gives us the opportunity to subcontract the services from them. They will eliminate competition and then hike rates for the State as they did previously. Please do not allow this thing to succeed.

  5. Samuel Says:

    Once again the hard core republicans are pushing health services privatization. It was a disaster a few years ago, and will be a disaster again. The republicans surely must love their electorate, they follow the republicans blind, waisting taxaper money to give to inept corporations that pay off politicians. What a great day for Flori-duh and our sorry excuse for a Governor.

  6. trade show flooring Says:

    You already know therefore considerably when it comes to this subject, made me individually consider it from numerous various angles. Its like women and men aren’t involved unless it’s one thing to accomplish with Lady gaga! Your own stuffs nice. All the time care for it up!

  7. Fed Up Says:

    I am against privatization and have to ask was there not a Florida company that could be considered if it does come to pass. I am sure that there are several.

  8. were are the unions Says:

    Rick Scott and Jeb Bush are on a drive to privatize everything for their well connected friends. Scott wanted to totally privatize state prisons, so if he can;t do it all at once he will do it piece meal. Jeb is on a nationwide campaign to take public schools and turn them over to his friends in the Charter School Management business like he did his friends who administer the FCAT (NCR) This is why Jeb is working so hard to get the Parent Trigger Bill passed so parents can exert the pressure on local school boards to turn their schools over to the charter people.

    Where in the heck is the SEIU and other unions on this one? They have let Rick Scott steal their retirement money and make them contribute (a pay cut) and now they are standing quietly by while Scott and Bush take more state jobs and give them to their friends. Maybe all the unions are too busy right now trying to get their messiah reelected!

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