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Idaho, prison medical firm at odds over contract

Idaho’s prison system will increase payments to its medical and mental health care provider by hundreds of thousands of dollars after the company demanded a raise.

However, the Idaho Department of Correction said it will only extend its $27 million annual contract with Corizon Correctional Healthcare until January, not another 12 months as previously announced.

By then, the state Board of Correction hopes to have a new contract in place with a provider whose price tag better fits Idaho’s budget.

During the six months starting July 1, Idaho will pay Tennessee-based Corizon about $250,000 more than currently budgeted. The move, approved at a Board of Correction meeting Thursday, came after Corizon President Stuart Campbell told state prison Director Brent Reinke he wouldn’t sign an extension for less money.

On April 26, Reinke said Corizon told him its contract with Idaho wasn’t sufficiently covering the company’s costs and it needed more to continue providing service.

“It’s just gotten more expensive to do business, and they just couldn’t afford to subsidize,” Reinke said, recalling Campbell’s justification for the hike. “The contract had just become too costly.”

Corizon officials in Brentwood, Tenn., didn’t immediately comment.

The rate Idaho has paid to Corizon has already increased about 20 percent in the past three years.

Idaho has had a rocky relationship with the company in recent years, a period in which the state has been under pressure from a decades-old federal lawsuit to improve medical and mental health care for prisoners.

The state fined Corizon $200,000 for missing contract benchmarks, and a federally appointed expert concluded its medical care was so bad it amounted to cruel and unusual punishment.

Corizon commissioned its own report released in May 2012, indicating it was meeting national prison standards with the care it was providing in Idaho.

In 2012, the Department of Correction asked companies to submit proposals on providing medical treatment to prisoners — a preliminary step to putting the contract out for bid.

Five companies responded, and Corizon was one of two that gave price estimates.

Based on that response, Reinke now says he’s optimistic that an offer will emerge before January that Idaho can better afford.

“There are other providers that responded that are very interested in this contract,” he said. “So we hope it’s in a very close range of the existing budget amount.”

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