Ask Florida Gov. Rick Scott and he’ll tell you, saving money is everything. Budget, budget, budget! And if you have to lose a few pesky, measly little insignificant convict lives in the process, you do it, and you don’t blink an eye.
Recently, a Palm Beach Post investigation has shown that is exactly what is happening in the state of Florida, and that news should be a calling card for the rest of the country.
A plethora of inmates have been dying ever since the state awarded the country’s biggest health care provider, Corizon Health, a $1.2 billion contract in 2011, despite the 660 lawsuits for malpractice they’ve endured between 2008 and 2013. Of course, being that the contract was offered in 2011, some of those 660 lawsuits had yet to be issued and brought forth, but in the three years leading up to 2011, you can bet an enormous amount of legal action had already piled up. The Scott administration didn’t care, though.
And what’s been Corizon Health’s track record since being hired? What are the details behind the plethora allegations set forth by The Palm Beach Post?
A mere three months after Corizon Health won the contract and was brought in, around January 2014, inmate deaths “shot to a 10-year high,” according to the Post.
But what do the numbers behind that look like?
In the last decade, there were only a total of 10 nonconsecutive months where more than 30 inmates died in a month. That sounds high already, but since Corizon Health has taken over inmate health care in Florida, the death count this year has already “topped 30 a total of four times in just seven months” – more than one a day! That rate shows a drastic increase from 12.5 percent to 57 percent. That’s one hell of a jump!
The Post investigation also discovered that referrals for care from outside hospitals fell by 47 percent from 2012.
But how did all this ugliness come about?
For starters, Rick Scott promised as a gubernatorial candidate back in 2010 to reduce prison funding by $1 billion.
Scott spokesperson Brian Burgess said:
Privatization isn’t necessary for us to achieve that goal, but nothing is off the table.
Without wasting any time, the Florida Corrections Department quickly issued a request for proposals regarding prison health care services. Being the largest health care provider in the country, Corizon was easily able to underbid its competitors while wooing the Scott administration with the sweet nothings of providing the current standard and quality of care for seven percent less in cost. That, of course, turned out to be sheer pillow talk.
In the wake that followed Corizon’s shift of control in Florida’s prison health care system, 1,890 employees were dismissed by letter, which read in part:
Due to the outsourcing of this function, your position will be deleted.
“Deleted” – what a word to use. Deleted might be a cold, heartless way to describe the loss of inmate lives under Corizon’s care, but for the workers who lost their jobs through the outsourcing fiasco, “backspaced” seems a more appropriate use of language, doesn’t it?
Corizon, noble as it is, admits there have been bumps in the road, which is why the company spent $415,000 on lobbying state legislature its first two years “servicing” Florida.
One major speed bump for Corizon came in December 2012, when the company’s contract was blocked by a judge due to three unions – AFSCE, the Alliance of Healthcare and Professional Employees, and the Federation of Physicians and Dentists – which brought forth a lawsuit. As a result, the court’s ruling stated that the Corrections Department had broken the law by approving a transfer of $57.6 million to Corizon. That money had been previously specified for state employees.
The Corizon contract was revived six months down the line, however, after an appellate court overturned the ruling, stating:
The LBC [Legislative Budget Commission] simply moved funds from different line items within the Department of Health Service’s Program.
What sounds harmless enough there is unthinkable in other scenarios. You can’t even get a local city council of a small town to shift funds like that even when it makes blatant sense and the need is dire. Just try asking them sometime. Trust me, you’ll see. It’s a stone wall, and average America doesn’t have the grappling hook it takes [read big money] to mount that wall.
Neck-deep in legal challenges in 2013, Gov. Scott pushed back with the following statement:
If we can provide a great service at a better price, then we ought to do that.
One must see, then, that “great service” is purely a subjective reality. Director of the ACLU National Prison Project David Fathi will tell you. He warned the Huffington Post that such contracts as that between Corizon and the state of Florida could result in death, or even many deaths.
Unlike governments, private companies exist first and foremost to generate profits …. If they say they can do it more cheaply than government, it’s because they’re cutting something. When you combine the profit motive with limited oversight and a uniquely powerless population, you get a bad and sometimes lethal results.
And that’s the hardest bit to understand, really, isn’t it? How Americans have been so duped by private industry’s marketing and propaganda that a vast majority of Americans have been convinced that corporate culture exists to provide the best at the most cost-effective in an almost pseudo-patriotic manner. It’s equated with the American way these days. We are supposedly known for our business savvy. Business is how the government is run, and business is the sole motivating factor behind everything we do. But it’s all a big lie, right? Fathi knows.
[P]rivate companies exist first and foremost to generate profits.
And guess what America, those profits are not for the government or American people. They are not for flag and country, they are for private pocketbooks by treasonous capitalists who hide their money away while the country crumbles into lesser and lesser quality, into more and more cost for the American people, and as Rick Scott’s penny-pinching in the prison health care system shows, more and more deaths.
But Americans are still largely duped. We have a long way to go, yet, before the corporate veil is lifted from our eyes. If you listen closely, you can almost hear the conservatives, and even many of the liberals (too many) saying, “Hey, if you don’t want to die of a totally curable, otherwise harmless malady, you shouldn’t have gone to prison!” Because, you know, everyone in prison deserves to be there, right? Our justice system is as infallible as the Pope. I mean, just look at how fabulously the Catholic Church has handled rampant sexual abuse of children around the world and rest easy. You can sleep with a clear conscience knowing the Florida budget is less a few more convicts and that much closer to a balanced budget, right? That’s government working for the people.
Forget Ebola, this is the real plague sure to kill this country.
To read more on the scourge of outsourcing, read the Center for Media and Democracy’s latest report: Pay to Prey: Governors Facilitate the Predatory Outsourcing of America’s Public Services.
Here’s the video: