Health care for 14,000 inmates in 13 South Florida state prisons is being turned over this month to Prison Health Services of Nashville, a national company that is promising to save the state millions of dollars a year, reports the Orlando Sentinel. Some lawmakers are wary because Prison Health’s bid for the work was tens of millions of dollars lower than its nearest rival bidders. They worry that the company will take shortcuts that could bring unnecessary health risks to the prisons and hidden costs such as inmate lawsuits.
Under the contract, the state will pay Prison Health $792 million over 10 years. Wexford Health Sources, which has had the South Florida prison health-care contract since 2001, would have charged $884 million. A third bidder, Correctional Medical Services, priced the contract at more than $1 billion. Wexford officials said they were shocked that Prison Health bid for the work at that price and suggested that the contract could be financially risky for Prison Health. Inmates in these institutions are considered to be among the sickest in the country, suffering disproportionately from health conditions such as HIV-AIDS, hepatitis C, diabetes, and hypertension. Prison Health has 110 prison contracts in 37 states. The New York Times found last year that substandard care by the company contributed to at least 15 inmate deaths in 11 Florida jails since 1992. The newspaper identified numerous administrative and health-care problems at correctional facilities under its care throughout the nation.