Illinois Grants A New Contract To A Private Prison Health Care Provider That Has Been Accused Of Providing Inadequate Care

Even though the corporation has been the target of multimillion-dollar lawsuits and statewide complaints alleging subpar care, Illinois has granted a more than $4 billion jail medical care contract to the same company that it has used for three decades.

Illinois Grants A New Contract To A Private Prison Health Care Provider That Has Been Accused Of Providing Inadequate Care

Wexford Health Sources, a Pittsburgh-based business, was not the low bidder among the two firms that answered the Illinois Department of Corrections’ request for proposals. Wexford submitted a bid that was $673 million greater than one from Topeka, Kansas-based VitalCore Health Strategies, per a procurement statement The Associated Press examined on Friday.

Wexford’s contract has a five-year initial term of $1.956 billion and a five-year renewal option worth $2.201 billion.

Cost is not the only factor considered by state representatives when making contract allocations. However, Wexford has also come under heavy fire for its operations, with multiple multimillion-dollar lawsuits accusing the business of providing subpar or delayed medical care as well as blowback for using off-site physicians to decide what if any, treatment is required. Medical professional job vacancy rates are still rather high.

2015 saw the conclusion by a federal judge-appointed group of experts that the health care system of the Corrections Department was “unable to meet minimal constitutional standards.” There have been more warnings from the federal bench since then.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois’s Camille Bennett, head of the Corrections Reform Project, referred to the decision to keep Wexford as “disappointing and inexplicable.”

“Expert reports to the federal court have demonstrated that Wexford has failed to provide adequate health care to people in IDOC facilities across the state and failed to ensure the presence of an appropriate level of staffing,” Bennett said in a statement. “It is not clear how they are prepared to meet these needs going forward.”

During Bennett’s testimony last summer before a state House committee, legislators urged the Department of Prisons to locate a qualified replacement.

The Corrections Department was contacted by the Associated Press via phone, email, and text message, and a spokesman for Governor J.B. Pritzker was also contacted. A representative for Wexford received a phone message.

Alan Mills, executive director of the Peoples Uptown Law Center, states that the unemployment rate for doctors is currently about one-third, while the rate for nurses and dentists is roughly 50%. The centre’s ongoing legal battle with Corrections over mental health treatment demanded a complete overhaul of the state’s care system. The matter was monitored by a federal court in 2017, which deemed the jails’ psychiatric care “grossly insufficient” and proclaimed a “state of emergency.”

“They’ve had years to turn it around, but they haven’t figured it out,” Mills said of Wexford. “We’re just throwing good money after bad.”

Wexford has now been granted an extension to its previous 10-year contract, which ended in 2021.

In 2020, Southern Illinois University School of Medicine launched a pilot program to provide medical care in two jails. Program administrators expressed their eagerness to watch the program’s progress and consider expanding it in the future. On Friday, a SIU representative was not accessible.

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