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Department of Corrections draws dispute over healthcare contract that awards $31 million annual fee

Prison photo 1The Florida Department of Corrections’ attempt to restore normalcy to its troubled prison healthcare system is now tangled in a legal dispute over the agency’s decision to award up to $31 million in fees to a politically well-connected company as part of a $268 million no-bid contract.

The contract between the prison agency and Centurion of Florida was signed Feb. 1 after Corizon Health told FDC Secretary Julie Jones in December that it planned to walk away from its five-year, $1.2 billion contract three years early. The company had complained it had been losing $1 million a month on its contract to provide mental, physical and dental healthcare for 82,000 of the state’s inmates and was under fire from the agency to improve its performance.

Jones determined that the emergency situation did not require the state to seek competitive bids and, rather than a formal bid-seeking process, she asked other healthcare companies to offer proposals to fill the gap in prison healthcare until the agency negotiates a new bid with new companies in 2018.

Three companies submitted proposals — Wexford, the company that serves 18,000 inmates in the South Florida region, Centurion, and Armor.

Two of them “were tens of millions of dollars more expensive than the awarded vendor’s price,” said McKinley Lewis, FDC spokesman.

The department awarded the contract to Centurion, a partnership between MHM Services, a provider of mental healthcare services, and Centene, the company that holds a lucrative Medicaid managed-care contract with the state. The company has contributed $298,000 to legislative campaigns and political committees in 2015 alone, and its chief lobbyist is former House Speaker Dean Cannon. Story here.