• Lawmakers look at $1.4 billion prison health care contract

    by  • April 8, 2013 • News

    Legislators spent two hours last week hearing testimony about Wexford Health Sources, a private health care company with a $1.4 billion contract to provide care to state prison inmates. inmate health

    According to a report last year by the prison watchdog John Howard Association, no one in the state is providing oversight to ensure that inmates are getting the care that taxpayers are already paying for.

    A Chicago area radio station has also documented numerous cases of inmates who have health needs that have gone unaddressed, including Christopher Clingingsmith, a man whose jaw was broken at the East Moline prison.

    He told the doctor there but the doctor did nothing. After eight weeks Clingingsmith was transferred to another prison where doctors diagnosed him as having a broken jaw. By that time Clingingsmith says he had lost 70 pounds and he had to be taken to a hospital where they performed a surgery in which his jaw was rebroken and metal plates and screws were put into his face.

    Prison nurses also testified at Thursday’s hearing. Mary Johnson spent 12 years as a registered nurse at the Graham Correctional Center about 50 miles south of Springfield, Illinois. Johnson was a state employee, though many of the other medical employees work for Wexford, the private health care company.

    Johnson said Wexford unreasonably limits their medical supplies. Some issues are seemingly minor.

    She says they routinely run out of cups for the med-line, which Wexford is supposed to provide, but she noted when they run out, the Department of Corrections has provided those cups at a cost to the state, in other words, Illinois has paid Wexford to provide those cups, but when they run out the state ends up providing the cups anyway.

    Johnson and other nurses say there are a lot of costs that the private company is supposed to cover but they don’t. Johnson said they are often short on diapers for inmates who are incontinent. A more serious concern was when the prison’s EKG machine was out of order for nine months.

    Representative Greg Harris, (D-Chicago), is pushing for a third party to audit the health care being provided in the prisons. Wexford says they welcome such oversight.