Gobeille Addresses Prison Health Care Spending Concerns | Off Message

Gobeille Addresses Prison Health Care Spending Concerns


Secretary of Human Services Al Gobeille - FILE: JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • File: Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • Secretary of Human Services Al Gobeille
Vermont Secretary of Human Services Al Gobeille is defending the state’s contract with a private prison health care provider after lawmakers and advocates expressed concerns.

At a September 20 legislative hearing, Vermont's chief health care advocate, Michael Fisher, questioned what had happened to $2.2 million that the state paid the contractor, Centurion, in fiscal year 2017. Lawmakers got the impression that Centurion had pocketed the money as profit, which Department of Corrections officials in the room didn't dispute.

But that was not the case, according to Gobeille. The secretary wasn’t at the hearing, but he later told lawmakers that Centurion spent the $2.2 million on other health care expenses. “There’s no missing money,” he said. “I don’t want anyone to think that we paid for a bunch of pharmaceuticals that never got used.”

Fisher raised the money issue while discussing a lack of hepatitis C treatment in Vermont prisons. “Our chief concern is that inmates are getting the care that they need,” Fisher said. Gobeille’s explanation “doesn’t satisfy the concern.”

Centurion did retain about $450,000 in profit in 2017 and received about $2 million to cover corporate overhead costs, according to Gobeille. In the context of the roughly $20 million contract, “I don’t think that’s exorbitant by any respect,” he said.

Gobeille explained that the prison health contract makes block payments, known as “value-based payments,” instead of reimbursing Centurion for each medical service. “It’s actually saving money in the long run,” he said.

Sen. Dick Sears (D-Bennington) said he remains concerned about the contract. If reelected, he said, he’ll ask for more information when the legislature reconvenes in January.

“I’m gonna certainly want a full accounting of that money,” Sears said.

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