State Seeks to Privatize Prison Healthcare

By: Mike Vasilinda Email
By: Mike Vasilinda Email

Tallahassee, FL - A Florida judge is raising questions about whether it was legal for the state to move ahead with a plan to privatize nearly 3,000 jobs in the state's prisons.

Circuit Judge John Cooper spent more than two hours Monday hearing a lawsuit from three unions that challenged a move by the state's prison agency to privatize prison health care operations.


Tallahassee, FL, September 12, 2012 -The state Department of Corrections got the green light today to turn health care for a hundred thousand inmates over to two private companies at the first of the year. Critics say the move has questionable financial savings and the companies have a checkered history with the state.

Earlier this week, David Allen Fields was awarded 1.2 million dollars because the private health care provider at the Lee County Jail failed to properly treat a spider bite. Fields was left paralyzed. Now the same company will get a contract to provide health care to tens of thousands of prison inmates. Corrections Secretary Ken Tucker told lawmakers he has confidence in the company. “The agency is very comfortable with their overall proven track record”, says Tucker.

Contracts to treat inmates is worth $350 million a year to two companies. Opponents voiced concerns that the only way to save a predicted $50 million a year is on the backs of employees. “We have 850 plus members of our association who will basically lose their jobs upon implementation of this privatization”, says Chris Snow a representative for Florida Nurses Association.

The committee voted six to four along party lines. Afterwards, the Corrections Secretary said the $50 million in an estimated savings will come from technology enhancements; not inmate care. “I don’t think we compromised the health care of inmates. I wouldn’t condone that”, says Ken Tucker, Florida Corrections Secretary.

But Critics don’t buy the argument. “If they can’t run a county jail, then how are they going to run three quarters of the prisons in Florida?”, asks Doug Martin a representative for Employee Union.

Questions remain over the legality of the health care transfer, which is sure to send the privatization plan to court.

A key legislative committee is poised to turn the health care of the state’s prison inmates over to two private companies at a meeting scheduled for tomorrow. Critics are calling the move a back door effort to do what couldn’t be done in a full vote of the legislature. The move is likely to end up in court.

One in five Florida Prison inmates is over the age 50. This year, the state will spend 350 million on prison health care. Last February, the state Senate defeated a proposal to privatize a fourth of the state’s prisons. “This is wrong, bad policy”, said Sen. Mike Fasano (R-New Port Richey) in February.

But on Wednesday, a fifteen member panel of lawmakers will be asked to move more than 50 million dollars from one part of the state budget to another. That will allow the Department of Corrections to privatize all health care by the first of the year.

The state says it has the authority under existing law. “The law is very clear that this is something that the department does have a purview over and that we can proceed forward”, says Ann Howard a Spokesperson for the Department of Corrections.

The statute also requires costs to be cheaper. Critics say savings are uncertain. “The cost factors are obscure ad even in their report they say that the cost savings claimed under the contracts can’t be verified”, says Tom Brooks an Attorney for AFSCME.

In a conference call, State Senator Nan Rich (D-Broward County), says giving prison health care to private companies is a back door attempt to do what the legislature as a whole refused to do. “Maybe they think they have a better chance to get it through the LBC (Legislative Budget Commission), where you don’t have the entire legislature”, says Sen. Rich.

The effort to privatize the prison health care will likely end up in the same place as the effort to privatize the fourth of the state’s prisons - in court. If the move is made, the department says it will be the largest privatization of health care in the country.


Tallahassee, FL, September 11, 2012 - A key legislative committee is poised to turn the health care of the state’s prison inmates over to two private companies at a meeting scheduled for tomorrow. Critics are calling the move a back door effort to do what couldn’t be done in a full vote of the legislature. The move is likely to end up in court.

One in five Florida Prison inmates is over the age 50. This year, the state will spend 350 million on prison health care. Last February, the state Senate defeated a proposal to privatize a fourth of the state’s prisons. “This is wrong, bad policy”, said Sen. Mike Fasano (R-New Port Richey) in February.

But on Wednesday, a fifteen member panel of lawmakers will be asked to move more than 50 million dollars from one part of the state budget to another. That will allow the Department of Corrections to privatize all health care by the first of the year.

The state says it has the authority under existing law. “The law is very clear that this is something that the department does have a purview over and that we can proceed forward”, says Ann Howard a Spokesperson for the Department of Corrections.

The statute also requires costs to be cheaper. Critics say savings are uncertain. “The cost factors are obscure ad even in their report they say that the cost savings claimed under the contracts can’t be verified”, says Tom Brooks an Attorney for AFSCME.

In a conference call, State Senator Nan Rich (D-Broward County), says giving prison health care to private companies is a back door attempt to do what the legislature as a whole refused to do. “Maybe they think they have a better chance to get it through the LBC (Legislative Budget Commission), where you don’t have the entire legislature”, says Sen. Rich.

The effort to privatize the prison health care will likely end up in the same place as the effort to privatize the fourth of the state’s prisons - in court. If the move is made, the department says it will be the largest privatization of health care in the country.


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