Kansas reduces payments to prison health care company
photo by: Associated Press
TOPEKA — Kansas is paying the company that provides health care to the state’s prisons millions less than due under its contract because the company is not meeting performance standards, such as hiring enough nurses or health workers for the prisons.
The state currently has a $68.8 million contract with Tennessee-based Corizon Health but penalized the company $534,880 for not meeting performance standards in 2018, The Kansas News Service reported. It also cut $2.82 million in payments to Corizon because the company didn’t provide the required number of employees and work hours last year.
Keith Bradshaw, finance director of the Kansas Department of Corrections, told lawmakers recently that his agency will renew its contract for Corizon for a year, rather than the two-year option in the contract, unless the company improves its performance while serving 10,000 inmates in Kansas.
Corizon currently faces 22 federal lawsuits over the care it provides to Kansas prisons, including allegations that inmates were refused medication and care for conditions such as hepatitis C.
Corizon spokeswoman Eve Hutcherson said in an email that the company was evaluating the state’s information.
“We take all requirements very seriously in our mission to provide exceptional care to the patients we serve as the DOC’s partner,” she said. “Corizon remains committed as a strong partner with Kansas Department of Corrections and the patients we serve.”
The University of Kansas Medical Center audits Corizon’s performance for the state, following such services as intake health assessments, sick calls and group therapy. The corrections department penalizes Corizon $100 per incident when it falls below 90 percent compliance with any of its 12 performance standards. That penalty increases if the problem isn’t fixed in six months and goes up again for failures in subsequent months.
For specialty services, such as X-rays, dermatology, chemotherapy, and obstetric and gynecological services, the state imposes a penalty of $300 per instance, with higher penalties the longer the problems persist.
The company was 100 percent compliant only in specialty services out of nine standards audited in 2018, and its compliance rates for the other standards were well below 90 percent.
State officials said this month during a presentation at the Kansas Capitol that the audits reviewed a small sample of the total medical services and do not accurately represent the overall quality of inmate health care. Bradshaw told lawmakers there were too few workers to conduct extensive evaluations for all 12 performance standards.
“With the small staff that we have and the size of this contract and the services being provided,” Bradshaw said, “it’s not realistic to expect every facility and every outcome to be looked at every month.”
In an interview, Bradshaw said a better measure of health care quality was the number of medical grievances filed by inmates.
“We’re actually seeing that trend going down, while at the same time the population’s going up,” he said. “I think we have to look at it more holistically.”