As a candidate, Gov. Rick Scott pitched the idea of having private companies provide health care to the state’s prisoners in a plan to save taxpayers $1 billion over seven years. But in the first five years of privatization, the cost has climbed from $278 million to $375 million.
“It’s been atrocious,” said Randall Berg, an attorney for the Florida Justice Institute, which represents prisoners who believe they were wronged by the health care system. “I mean it’s a terrible business model. And it just doesn’t seem to be working.”
Berg has sued the state multiple times to force it to follow a constitutional mandate to provide care to inmates.
At first, the system didn’t work for the companies who were providing the care either. One was fired by the state. The other — Corizon Health — walked away from its five-year contract. It was losing about $1 million a month.
“Finally, it just seemed to be a situation that made more sense to walk away from,” said Martha Harbin, Corizon’s spokeswoman.
One company — Centurion Managed Care — stepped in to take over the state’s prison health care system. It had political connections and deep pockets.
Since late 2010, state records show Centurion’s parent company – Centene — has given more than $1 million in campaign contributions to the governor and key lawmakers. Records show it’s also paid another $2 million to powerful lobbyists.
Berg says the money has an influence.
“That seems to have insured that privatization will continue in the state of Florida, regardless of whether it has been successful or not,” he said.
The department of corrections declined to be interviewed but in a statement said political contributions did not influence the decision to go with Centurion.