Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Unions sue to stop Florida's prison health care privatization plan

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott's administration was back in a familiar place Tuesday, the courtroom, where two unions are challenging a plan to save money by privatizing health care to the state's 100,000 inmates.

The state has already hired two out-of-state firms to do the work at a minimum cost savings of 7 percent a year.

But the Florida Nurses Association and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) say the privatization plan is unconstitutional and want Circuit Judge Kevin Carroll to block its implementation.

The 2011 Legislature mandated the privatization through the use of budget language known as proviso.

The unions say that's a violation of the state Constitution, and that a policy change must be enacted through a separate piece of legislation.

"You're changing the law from what the law otherwise provided, and that you can't do," argued M. Stephen Turner, an attorney for the nurses. "We have to stop them when the Legislature goes too far."

Carroll did not issue a ruling Tuesday.

Scott's administration lost a similar case last summer, when a union for correctional officers successfully challenged another proviso that ordered the privatization of nearly 30 prisons in 18 South Florida counties.

The state is appealing that ruling.

Assistant Attorney General Jon Glogau said the Legislature acted within its authority when it ordered the outsourcing of health care.

"Every line in an appropriations act is a policy decision," Glogau argued, adding that the law allows the prison system to privatize health care on its own, if it wanted.

At stake are hundreds of jobs for people such as Doreen Von Oven, a licensed practical nurse at Santa Rosa Correctional Institution in Milton. Von Oven was in the courtroom Tuesday.

After six-and-a-half years as a state employee, Von Oven earns less than $34,000 a year. If the privatization is allowed, she is worried about losing a job through which she provides her family's health insurance.

"I don't think it's fair at all," Von Oven said. "We went to work for the state, and now, maybe, you're going to get to work for this private company."

Attorneys for both private health care vendors, Corizon and Wexford Health Sources, joined the state in arguing that the privatization plan is legal.

Last month, Department of Corrections Secretary Kenneth Tucker approved the selection of the two vendors at a total cost in the first year of $359 million. Corizon would provide all health care to prisons in North and Central Florida, while Wexford would take over South Florida prisons.

The vendors were scheduled to be providing care by now, but their hiring requires approval by the Legislative Budget Commission, which has no meetings scheduled.

That could be a problem itself. Both sides agreed Tuesday that a proviso is valid only for the duration of the budget year in which it is implemented. The current budget year ends June 30.

Steve Bousquet can be reached at or (850) 224-7263.

Unions sue to stop Florida's prison health care privatization plan 05/29/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 29, 2012 11:12pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Pinellas licensing board executive director settled hundreds of cases without getting his board's approval

    Local Government

    By Mark Puente

    Times Staff Writer

    Eleanor Morrison complained to the Pinellas licensing board in 2015 that her contractor installed crooked walls and windows and poured too much concrete for her carport.

    Eleanor Morrison poses at her home in Treasure Island, 5/26/17. Morrison filed a complaint with the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board and later learned that its former Executive Director, Rodney Fischer, dismissed the case in a private meeting with the contractor.
  2. Report: Kusher wanted secret communications channel with Kremlin


    Jared Kushner and Russia's ambassador to Washington discussed the possibility of setting up a secret and secure communications channel between Donald Trump's transition team and the Kremlin, using Russian diplomatic facilities in an apparent move to shield their pre-inauguration discussions from monitoring, U.S. …

    The name of Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump's White House senior adviser, has come up as part of the Russia investigation. [Associated Press]
  3. Rays pitchers rave about Twins pitching coach, ex-mentor Neil Allen

    The Heater

    MINNEAPOLIS — There have been a lot of coaches who have had a hand in helping Chris Archer get to the big leagues and to the front of the Rays rotation, and as he took the mound Friday night at Target Field, he had reason to nod appreciatively toward the home dugout.

    Minnesota Twins pitching coach Neil Allen jogs back to the dugout after paying starting pitcher Tyler Duffey a visit on the mound in the first inning of a baseball game against the Texas Rangers on Thursday, July 7, 2016, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
  4. Swan sculpture deputies say was stolen by naked man found near Lakeland pond


    A $25,000 swan sculpture that Polk County sheriff's deputies say was stolen by a naked man last weekend was found near a pond in Lakeland on Thursday.

    A swan sculpture that was stolen in Lakeland on May 19 was recovered by the Polk Sheriff’s Office on Friday.
  5. Mayor Rick Kriseman says St. Petersburg mayoral election is about going forward, not back


    ST. PETERSBURG — Mayor Rick Kriseman christened his campaign office Friday evening by telling his supporters that the mayoral election was about moving forward, not backward.

    Mayor Rick Kriseman says mayoral election is about inclusiveness Friday at campaign office rally