Prison Health Care Changes Underway

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By Matt Horn
July 5th, 2013

Some are calling it the dirtiest deal in the last 20 years. Others say it will save the state millions of dollars a month. The privatization of the prison health care is moving full steam ahead – and thousands are waiting to see if they’ll be employed as a result.

On paper privatizing the prison health care system looks like a good deal. ”If we can provide a great service at a better price, then we ought to be doing that,” said Governor Rick Scott.
A two-year legal showdown may prove otherwise. A recent 1st District Court of Appeals sided with the state. It will allow Florida to outsource the prison health care system, leaving nearly 2-thousand state workers in limbo.

In a November 2012 interview, employee Joanne Mendez said, “They’re afraid that they’re going to lose the only job they have right now.”

State employees received a letter from the Department of Corrections saying their position will no longer be available at the state. It went on to say the contract with the private companies provides employees will have the ‘right to interview and first consideration.’

“It is possible that not all of the employees will be hired by them,” Reporter Matt Horn asked Ann Howard with the Department of Corrections. Howard responded, “It is possible that all of them will not want to. Some of them may want to retire; some may want to go into a different type of private sector; some of them may remain with the state.”

The state employees union has accused the Legislature of doing a dirty deal. Arguing a 14-member panel shouldn’t have the power to make a decision for the entire legislative body. Opponents worry it will devastate many smaller Florida communities.

”What happens when you reduce salaries, when you reduce hours and increase the opportunities to be left out in the cold, that’s not good economic stability,” said attorney Alma Gonzales.

Its unknown how many of the nearly 2,000 employees will be hired by the private companies. The two out of state private companies are expected to take the helm of providing prisoners health care later this year.

The private companies are required to offer comprehensive care for nearly 100,000 inmates’ 7% less than what the state paid in 2010.


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