Phila. Lawmakers Say Prison Health Care Contractor Needs More Scrutiny
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By Mike Dunn
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia City Council members are up in arms over the mayor’s decision to renew a huge contract for prison health care to a company that was recently forced to pay nearly $2 million to settle the city’s fraud claim.
The Nutter administration is renewing the contract of Corizon Healthcare at more than $40 million per year, despite the fact that Corizon was fined $1.85 million last year for skirting minority participation requirements by using a subcontractor that did no work.
At a Council hearing this past week, Councilman Bill Greenlee was among those upset with the renewal.
“It is disconcerting to see that a company that had to pay a $1.85 million penalty continues to operate (in the city) and has been renewed,” Greenlee said.
Councilman Jim Kenney (at left in top photo) chided the administration for renewing the deal without Council approval even though there was a lower bidder.
“That’s $150-$160 million in taxpayer money, without having the courtesy to ask us what we think. That’s not good,” Kenney said. “In the private sector, if the CEO of a company were to award a contract of that magnitude without telling the board of directors, he or she would be out of a job.”
Councilwoman Cindy Bass agreed:
“I find this incredibly disturbing and outrageous. And it speaks to the City of Philadelphia really not taking seriously minority participation.”
In the hot seat was Philadelphia prisons commissioner Louis Giorla (at right in top photo), who said the possibility of a lawsuit from the lower bidder prevented him from discussing the decision in detail.
But he said the infractions by Corizon had occurred during the Street administration.
“The pass-through (scam) that was engineered initially in this contract was made during a previous administration, during a time when subcontractors in particular were not given the same level of scrutiny,” Giorla said.
Also at the hearing, Corizon’s quality of care was criticized by a former prison inmate, Gregory Glemser, who said a Corizon doctor ignored his health issues.
“He said, ‘As far as I’m concerned, you don’t even have a cold,’ ” Glemser told the the hearing. “I heard he was just fired for another wrongful death.”
It was in July of last year that Philadelphia’s inspector general, Amy Kurland, announced a no-fault settlement agreement with Corizon in which the firm agreed to pay $1.85 million and to change internal policies to prevent future issues.
Kurland said Corizon’s minority-certified subcontractor had performed no actual work, and was paid only to meet requirements that Corizon use minority owned subcontractors.