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Florida Gives Huge Contracts To Prison Health Care Providers Plagued By Lawsuits

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FLORIDA GOVERNOR
FORT LAUDERDALE, FL - SEPTEMBER 10: Florida Governor Rick Scott attends a meeting with business leaders as he kicks off what he is calling, 'It's Your Money' tax cut tour on September 10, 2013 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The Governor is putting together a plan to cut taxes and fees for Florida families by $500 million in the next proposed budget. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images) | Getty
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The Florida Department of Corrections awarded two massive contracts to a pair of private health care providers to serve the state's prisoners. Both companies have been besieged by medical malpractice lawsuits, according to a report in the Broward Bulldog.

Corizon Prison Health Management inked a five-year, $1.2 billion deal and Wexford Health Sources scored a $240 million contract for the same time period, according to the Bulldog.

The non-profit news site reports that Corizon has been sued 660 times for malpractice over the last half-decade.

Wexford faced 1,092 malpractice claims — "suits, notices of intent to sue and letters from aggrieved inmates" — between 2008 and 2012, according to the report.

Neither of the two companies responded to requests for comment from The Huffington Post. Both declined comment when approached by the Bulldog.

Florida Corrections spokeswoman Misty Cash told the site, “the selection of Wexford and Corizon was transparent.”

David Fathi, Director of the American Civil Liberties Union's National Prison Project, told HuffPost that private companies have no business providing health care to prisoners.

"The claim a private corporation can do the same job as state employees more cheaply and create profits for its shareholders sounds too good on its face and the evidence suggests that it's false," Fathi said.

Companies that care for prisoners have few incentives to provide quality service, according to Fathi.

"Prisoners are a uniquely powerless, politically unpopular and literally captive market so with private prisons or private prison health care providers the usual rules of market discipline, the idea that bad businesses that injure or kill people will eventually go out of business, doesn't apply," Fathi said. "if [prisoners] are injured, their ability to recover compensation has been dramatically restricted by federal legislation."

Allowing private health care providers in prisons can be dangerous, Fathi said.

"Unlike governments, private companies exist first and foremost to generate profits," Fathi said. "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 bad and sometimes lethal results."

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly referred to the Broward Bulldog as a paper. The Broward Bulldog is a non-profit news site.

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Filed by Simon McCormack