Arizona’s prison system hires controversial healthcare provider
TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - A company that recently settled a nearly $700,000 lawsuit over allegations it lied to the federal government is now providing health care to Arizona’s prison system, and its 34-thousand inmates.
The Department of Justice accused NaphCare, Incorporated of violating the False Claims Act, alleging it overcharged the Federal Bureau of Prisons for services it provided.
The Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry selected Alabama-based private healthcare provider, NaphCare Inc. after a six-month competitive evaluation process.
“It certainly raises concerns that yet again Arizona taxpayers are going to be paying inflated prices for the healthcare that incarcerated people are constitutionally entitled and the people in the prisons may be paying with their lives or their health,” said Corene Kendrick, the Deputy Director for the ACLU’s National Prison Project.
Kendrick has followed the ADCRR for years and is representing inmates in a case originally filed in 2012, which claims the ADCRR’s health care is so poor, it violates inmates’ constitutional rights.
The parties settled in 2014, but a federal judge ordered the parties to go to trial again the state racked up more than $2 million in fines for failing to meet the prison health care standards outlined in the statement.
Now, the ADCRR has chosen to move forward with NaphCare as it waits to hear the federal’s ruling.
“We actually asked Judge Silver to find this law that the state has in place that requires a for-profit vendor be used for health care be rescinded. While health care was by no means perfect when the state was doing it as the court’s own expert showed, there is a profit motive involved when you bring in companies do this kind of service for prisons and prisoners,” Kendrick said.
NaphCare, Inc. may sound familiar. The Pima County Board of Supervisors signed a roughly $17-million-dollar contract with NaphCare in 2021 to provide health care services to inmates at the Pima County Jail. Sheriff Chris Nanos said correctional staff tell him the company is, “bending over backwards to meet our needs.”
The county signed the contract with NaphCare just months after the U.S. Department of Justice announced a $694,593 settlement with the Alabama-based company.
“We will hold accountable those who knowingly fail to comply with this obligation and seek taxpayer funds to which they are not entitled,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton of the Justice Department’s Civil Division.
In a statement, ADCRR Director David Shinn said, “In considering our selection of a new healthcare partner, providing maximum savings to the Arizona taxpayer and providing the highest-quality care for the inmates in our custody were top priorities. We believe NaphCare was the best-possible choice in these areas.”
NaphCare is a familiar name in Southern Arizona. The Pima County Board of Supervisors signed a $17 million contract with NaphCare in 2021 to provide health care services to inmates at the Pima County Jail.
That contract was signed shortly after NaphCare agreed to pay $694,593 to resolve allegations it violated the False Claims Act.
The U.S. Department of Justice claims NaphCare knowingly submitting false claims to the Federal Bureau of Prisons in connection with health care services provided to inmates.
KOLD contacted NaphCare about the contract with ADCRR. A spokesperson said the claims they submitted to the federal government were in no way false.
“NaphCare actively cooperated with the DOJ to resolve the investigation through a settlement. NaphCare has always acted with integrity and transparency in our provision of services to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons and we always will,” said a NaphCare spokesperson.
The ADCRR declined to comment, but according to a press release, Director David Shinn said, “In considering our selection of a new healthcare partner, providing maximum savings to the Arizona taxpayer and providing the highest-quality care for the inmates in our custody were top priorities. We believe NaphCare was the best-possible choice in these areas.”
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