Lawmakers Hear Presentations on Privatizing Prison Health Care

Private health care businesses say they could actually help Florida's budget.

Their plan to do so includes privatizing health care in the state's prison system.

Twenty-nine states outsource health care services for their prisons--including medical, dental, pharmacy and mental-health plans.

Monday, 3-28, private companies gave presentations to lawmakers in hopes of providing those services for Florida's prison system.

Florida has the third largest prison population in the country, and several companies are vying to be the one to take over the health care services of the some 100,000 inmates.

Monday, representatives from private companies gave presentations to the Florida House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee.

Rep. Ray Pilon/(R) Sarasota says the option should be looked out, but says a decision should be done carefully.

He said, "I don't support overall privatization of prisons everywhere and every service. I think we have to look at those individual things. When we're looking at health care, I think we need to go to the health care experts."

The companies say cost saving is one of the biggest reasons Florida should privatize prison health care.

The Senate's proposed bill is expected to save $75 million in savings from a proposed statewide privatization of health-care services for inmates, but that proposal isn't in the House version of the bill.

One company says for mental health services, it would cost less because privatizing would reduce self harm behaviors, assaults to staff, and off-site medical costs.

Tallahassee resident Nelson Mizrahi said, "Private companies should definitely take care of health care, in my opinion, for other matter. But, not for prison. For prison people, definitely leave it to the State."

Other promises, including better management of prison staff, cause concern for state workers' jobs.

Tallahassee resident Heather Stewart said, "I would feel really bad if they lost their job. The economy is so bad. People should be having jobs."

One of the companies did admit that privatizing Florida's prison health care would be challenging because of the state's uniquely large inmate population.

The presentations were for informational purposes. The subcommittee did not make any decisions.

We will be following the issue and keep everyone posted.


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