Two appointees sent by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to fix the state’s dysfunctional prison health care system pushed a $26-million, no-bid contract for outside medical services while contract reviewers maintained it was overpriced and illegal, reports the Los Angeles Times. Instead of being a strong step toward reforming the corrections department’s $1.8-billion medical system, the handling of this relatively small contract erupted into a fight that forced out the two appointees. The Times says the case highlights what critics say are systemic breakdowns that helped bloat health care costs at the state’s 33 prisons.
The contract for a pilot program at two prisons was supposed to be a model for improving the care of inmates who need to see specialists – one of the major failings that led a federal judge to seize control of prison health care and appoint a receiver last year to oversee it. John Hagar, chief of staff for receiver Robert Sillen, said, “This is a classic example of the department looking at a problem and jumping to a solution that, in fact, does not work and increases costs unnecessarily.”