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Continued Consolidation in Jail Healthcare Puts Everyone at Risk

Posted  September 19, 2019
By Sarah “Poppy” Alexander

Jails around the country are responsible for providing for the health and safety of approximately 612,000 people.  Many of these individuals suffer from debilitating conditions, including mental health crises, drug withdrawal, disabilities, and chronic health conditions.  As such, the consistent provision of health care is a critical part of the daily work of any jail.

An increasing number of jails are deciding to privatize that health care by contracting out to a correctional health care company.  As highlighted in a recent article in The Atlantic Monthly by Marsha McLeod, one company has come to dominate the jail health care space.  Wellpath has quietly become the major player through two technically separate companies, Correct Care Solutions and Correctional Medical Group Companies.  Private correctional companies in general are exploding as an industry.

The risk to jail populations from substandard health care is enormous.  Suicide rates in jails are considered at “epidemic” levels—something many people learned in the wake of Jeffrey Epstein’s recent suicide.  Other forms of medical neglect can quickly lead to serious injury or death.  And there is no evidence that privatizing health care leads to better outcomes.  To the contrary.  A Sacramento Bee investigation into Correctional Medical Group Companies’ predecessor company, California Forensic Medical Group (CFMG), found 92 people died of suicide or a drug overdose while in custody at a CFMG jail during a 10-year period, which was about 50% higher than in non-CFMG California jails.

A significant factor in protecting jail patients is appropriate staffing levels.  Putting too few doctors or nurses into a jail, or having individuals providing medical care above their training levels, significantly increases the risk that jail patients will receive dangerous care—or no care at all.  Appropriate staffing levels are also required to perform necessary tasks such as wellness checks, suicide watch, and medication distribution.  When private companies fail to provide the staffing levels guaranteed in their contracts, this failure could potentially rise to the level of fraud in violation of the False Claims Act and/or various state false claims acts.  With the continued consolidation of the industry, any competitive check to ensure healthcare companies are providing sufficient care goes away.  The fraud risk thus goes up, putting everyone at risk.

If you have any information about fraud in correctional health care, please contact us.

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Tagged in: Correctional Services Fraud, FCA Federal, FCA State,


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