Prison agency signs short-term contract for inmate health care

Published Feb. 1, 2016

A company that provides prison healthcare services in five other states, announced Monday that it has signed a contract with the Florida Department of Corrections to fill in the gap in coverage after Corizon Healthcare terminated its agreement with the state.

Centurion of Florida, LLC is a joint venture between Centene Corporation and MHM Services, Inc., announced it has signed a formal agreement to begin in April to replace Corizon Healthcare as the medical provider in Florida's prisons beginning in the second quarter.

Corizon Health decided not to renew its $1.1 billion contract with the state in November after months of complaints about inadequate inmate healthcare and dozens of lawsuits.

A year ago, state Sen. Greg Evers, R-Baker, chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, ordered the Department of Corrections Secretary Julie Jones to renegotiate the contract after a series of reports in the Miami Herald and other news organizations showed suspicious inmate deaths were covered up or never reviewed, staffing was inadequate, and inmate grievances and complaints of harmful medical care were dismissed or ignored.

Centurion's press release said the company will serve the new prison Regions 1, 2 and 3, which are covered by Corizon. Wexford Health Sources will continue to operate in Region 4, which includes Miami-Dade and Broward.

"This agreement with Centurion is a result of the state undertaking negotiation of a gap contract due to early termination by its prior vendor,'' Centene Corp. wrote in a press release. "The initial term of Centurion's contract with the Department of Corrections runs through January 2018 when the Department anticipates completion of a formal procurement. However, the agreement also includes optional renewal periods if the formal procurement is not finalized in the anticipated timeframe. Centurion will provide comprehensive healthcare services to over 70,000 inmates housed at facilities throughout the three regions."

Steven H. Wheeler, CEO of Centurion, said the company is "pleased to be able to work with the Department to improve the quality of services and care levels provided to this population. We also recognize the importance of maintaining sound financial discipline on behalf of the State and its residents."

Centurion's Florida operations are expected to start in the second quarter of 2016.