Tennessee Dumps Corizon for Higher Bidder on Prison Health Care Contract
The Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC) has awarded its prisoner health care contract to Centurion, a company formed when MHM Services and Centene Corp. merged. TDOC’s current prisoner health care provider has filed a protest, arguing it not only submitted a cheaper bid, but that Centurion lacks the requisite experience to bid.
Corizon, a company created by the merger of Prison Health Services and Correctional Medical Services (CMS), has held TDOC’s $29 million prisoner health care contract since 2012. It also has the mental health care contract for TDOC prisoners.
When TDOC put out a request for proposal for its prisoner health care contract, only Corizon and Centurion submitted bids. Corizon’s bid was around $226 million while Centurion’s was about $241 million. Despite the higher bid, Centurion won the contract that runs to 2015.
Corizon promptly filed a protest. TDOC required five years’ experience in its request for proposals. “If you look back at all of the information that was provided…there are no bases in the record to support a finding that Centurion meets the minimum experience requirement,” argued Corizon attorney Jim Miller.
At a hearing, TDOC dismissed that complaint. “The proposal was evaluated and across the board the evaluators all rated Centurion higher and, actually, quite a bit higher. And that was based on the quality of the proposal, which is appropriate. They felt that this proposal that was submitted by Centurion was more detailed, more comprehensive,” said Debbie Inglis, an attorney for TDOC. “I look at it in a different way. I think it’s clear that they have quite a bit of experience in providing services.”
MHM has handled prisoner health care services for years. While it has not previously handled care for an entire state’s prison system, it did provide services for three years to Florida’s southern region, which is nearly equivalent to the entire population of TDOC. Based upon that experience, TDOC gave Centurion perfect marks in meeting the contract’s experience requirements.
Although Corizon officials are miffed it lost a contract for a service it has been providing for nearly two years, it may be that very experience that hindered it in securing an extension of its contract. Over the last few years, TDOC has docked Corizon millions in penalties for failing to meet all the contractual obligations.
As previously reported by PLN over the last decade, Corizon, and the entities that combined to create the company, have a track record of providing horrific health care to prisoners. Its business model entails scrimping on staff and services to cut costs, and lawsuits from prisoners that involve death or injury from deficient medical care are typically resolved by confidential settlement.
Although not raised at the protest hearing, a media outlet raised ethical concerns in Centurion being awarded the contract. The Tennessean reported that the wife of TDOC’s Commissioner, Derrick Schofield, works for Centurion. For the past three years, Schofield has disclosed his wife’s employment on ethical disclosure forms.
“The perception is going to be, I’m sure by a lot of people, that the fact that the commissioner’s wife was involved in the company, even if in another state, had a significant bearing on the decision,” said Dick Williams, chairman of Common Cause Tennessee. “You can’t blame them. I think it’s worth questioning. I don’t think we should assume it’s inappropriate, but it does bear further investigation.”
Latrese Schofield has been employed since 2005 by MHM as a prisoner re-entry coordinator in Georgia. TDOC says there is no conflict and Derrick Schofield recused himself from having any say in the contract’s award.
“We’re confident that the process was appropriate and fair and resulted in the selection of the best-qualified bidder,” said TDOC spokeswoman Dorinda Carter. “Ms. Schofield is not in a position of making decisions regarding the contract and she’s not an executive-level contract.”
The alleged ethics conflict has nothing to do with Corizon’s protest, and with its informal protest denied, it has filed a formal protest that will be resolved by the state’s Protest Committee.
Source: The Tennessean
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