Lawmaker Pushing For More Oversight Of Health Care For Prison Inmates

CHICAGO (CBS) — An Illinois House committee has held a hearing aimed on a proposal to providing more oversight for the private company that maintains health care in the Illinois prison system.

WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports the Wexford Health has a $1.4 billion contract to provide medical care for Illinois prison inmates, and state Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago) has introduced a resolution that would call on either the Illinois Auditor General or the National Commission on Correctional Health Care (NCCHC) to monitor how Wexford Health has been handling those responsibilities.

Harris said he’s heard from critics who have said Wexford doctors don’t always deliver the care they should, or send inmates to specialists when needed.

“How are we certain that decisions are not being made more in the interest of saving money, as opposed to delivering appropriate health care?” he said.

Rev. Doris Green, director of correctional health for the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, said her husband died of cancer in prison, because he didn’t get proper care.

“Me, as an advocate for 30 years, with all the experience that I have with working with IDOC [Illinois Department of Corrections], and all the influence that I have with working with the prison system, I could not get the medical people that could have given my husband maybe another two weeks of life,” she said.

Green supports Harris’ proposal.

Illinois Department of Corrections chief fiscal officer Bryan Gleckler said he can step in if there’s a problem.

“A red flag is usually raised to me when a denial rate is above 10 to 15 percent, and if it’s in that case, that’s when I usually go back and take a look at them a little more closely,” he said.

Wexford vice president Nick Little said the company has no objections to a third-party monitor keeping a watch on its contract.

“We work under those systems in a number of states, and are very effective and efficient in meeting those standards,” he said.

Harris said Wexford might provide great medical care to inmates, but he wants an outside agency to make sure of that.

More from Craig Dellimore
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