TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Department of Corrections said Tuesday it will move ahead with plans to privatize all inmate health care for the nation's third-largest prison system, even after a stalemate in court and the expiration of legislative budget language that authorized the sweeping change.
Corrections Secretary Ken Tucker issued a late-afternoon statement calling the decision "best for the department and taxpayers."
"This step will allow us to provide the same services we currently have which meet state and federal standards, while saving money for the taxpayers," Tucker said.
The Legislature last year ordered the agency to privatize all health care as a money-saving move by inserting budget language known as proviso and requiring a savings of at least 7 percent over 2010 costs. In April, Tucker announced a decision to tentatively award contracts to Corizon Health in most of the state and Wexford Health Sources in South Florida. Two unions filed a lawsuit.
A state judge in Tallahassee did not rule in the case, and on June 30 the fiscal year expired. The proposal also required approval by the Legislative Budget Commission, which never took action on the outsourcing.
However, attorneys for the state contend that privatization can be done by the agency without a legislative mandate.
The decision by Gov. Rick Scott's administration brought a quick threat of new legal action by the union for state workers, AFSCME Florida Council 79. "Gov. Scott is not above the law," union president Jeannette Wynn said. "He cannot charge ahead with this scheme to funnel more of our tax dollars to his big business buddies without the input of the Florida Legislature or the legal system."