Battle Over Prison Health Care Privatization Continues

Florida spends 350 million dollars a year taking care of sick and injured inmates.

Joanne Mendez is a nurse practitioner at the1600 bed male prison. "We see everything: diabetes, hypertension, HIV".

Joanne took the job, and a pay cut, two years ago because it offered a good pension. But in September, a little known legislative budget commission voted to allow prison health care to be privatized, leaving Joanne and hundreds of others without their pensions, benefits, and maybe even a job.

"I accepted a job never thinking that this job was in jeopardy of losing a pension," said Joanne.

Nurses and the state employee union are suing, arguing the 15 member panel doesn't have the authority to make wholesale policy changes.

"And some huge companies are doing everything that they can to get their for-profit hands on the tax payer money," said Doug Martin with American Federation of State, County, & Municipal Employees.

This past week, a judge raised questions about how the health care was being privatized.

The case challenging the Department of Corrections' decision to privatize health care is back before a judge next week.

The state says privatizing health care in prisons could save 50 million dollars a year.

State law makers defeated a plan to privatize a 4th of the prison system last spring. Opponents of the health care privatization say the latest move is an attempt to do what the legislature refused to do.

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