Illinois lawmaker demanding proof on prison health care

October 9, 2012

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(AP/Seth Perlman)
Illinois state Rep.Greg Harris

An Illinois state legislator is demanding answers about a huge healthcare contract for prison inmates.

Democratic Rep. Greg Harris from Chicago’s Northwest Side is pushing HR 1248, a House resolution calling for an official examination of how the state failed to audit Wexford Health Sources before signing a $1.4 billion contract with the private health care company last year.

WBEZ has been reporting on poor health care in the prisons, and a recent report by the prison watchdog John Howard Association found that no one in the state is checking on Wexford to make sure they’re providing the care they’re being paid for.

Harris's audit would change that. Harris says there are 250 lawsuits against the state right now alleging poor health care.  He says he's been seeking proof that Wexford is actually earning the $115 million Illinois pays them every year, but he’s not satisfied with what he’s found.

“I got a one-page response from the Department of Corrections saying they're doing it.  To me that's just not adequate,” said Harris. “We need to dig beyond what people tell us that there's no problem here, keep moving, there's nothing to see.  We as legislators need to do our jobs and monitor these contracts.”

Harris says dollars are in short supply and there needs to be independent oversight of the enormous private contract. He says Wexford may be providing great care to Illinois inmates, but he wants an independent agency to make sure that's the case.