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Corrections agrees to temporary new contract with prison healthcare company, Centurion

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 last fall.

Centurion of Florida, LLC, 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.

The company's lead lobbyist is former House Speaker Dean Cannon, and its parent company, Centene Health, is a primary provider of managed medicaid services in Florida -- doing business as Sunshine Health -- and one of the largest contributors to legislative political committees in the state. Centene gave $298,000 to legislative campaigns and political committees in 2015 alone.

Centurion currently currently has five has statewide contracts to provide correctional healthcare services, though none in a state as large as Florida. They are in Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Tennessee and Vermont.

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 Corizon 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 70,000 inmates in the new prison Regions 1, 2 and 3, for a contract that runs through January 2018, when the agency expects to complete negotiations for a longer-term health care provider. Wexford Health Sources will continue to operate in Region 4, which includes Miami-Dade and Broward, during that time.

Details of the contract, and what kinds of performance measures will be included, have not yet been released.

Jones said in a statement that the agency “looks forward to working collaboratively with Centurion of Florida and Corizon Health to ensure a seamless transition of health care services for our facilities.” She said the department is committed to providing “quality health care to those in our custody and improving health outcomes for Florida’s inmates.”

"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. He said “the agreement also includes optional renewal periods if the formal procurement is not finalized in the anticipated timeframe.”

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.”