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Missouri prison medical provider sues state after it loses major contract to Centene subsidiary
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Missouri prison medical provider sues state after it loses major contract to Centene subsidiary

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JEFFERSON CITY — A company that has provided medical care to inmates in Missouri prisons for nearly three decades filed suit Sunday seeking to stop the state from awarding the contract to a new vendor.

Corizon, which earlier lost an administrative appeal of the bidding process, asked a Cole County judge to put the new contract on hold, arguing the process used by Gov. Mike Parson’s administration was flawed.

“It is a cornerstone of the bidding process and being a good steward of taxpayer dollars that state contracts be awarded based on a truthful, ethical and transparent process requiring the evaluation and scoring of proposals containing accurate and complete information. That didn’t happen here,” the lawsuit notes.

In May, Virginia-based Centurion Health, a subsidiary of Clayton-based managed care company Centene, was chosen over four other firms, including Corizon, for the state’s lucrative prison health care contract.

The company’s bid of $174 million per year puts it on track to be paid more than $1.3 billion if the contract is fully renewed on an annual basis by the state.

But Corizon, which has held the contract since 1992, says Centurion had made “prohibited communications” with the administration to gain an upper hand in winning the contract.

Corizon said it would offer its services for $159 million per year. Its current contract expires on Oct. 31.

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After losing the bidding process, Corizon appealed to Parson’s Office of Administration. The company said Centurion failed to report that personnel involved in its Missouri bid were fired over their involvement in a Tennessee bidding controversy.

But earlier this month, the state’s top purchasing officer rejected their complaint.

The lawsuit focuses largely on the alleged violations of Tennessee purchasing laws by Centurion, saying the disclosure of the developments in the case could have impacted the scoring and evaluation of the Missouri bids.

“Centurion remained silent to gain an unfair advantage over Corizon and other vendors contrary to Missouri law governing the procurement process,” the lawsuit notes.

Corizon said the loss of the contract will affect 700 employees who work in the state’s prisons and in the company’s operations offices. It was not clear Monday whether Centurion would hire medical providers who work for Corizon.

Plus, the lawsuit notes, the change to Centurion could affect inmates housed within Missouri Department of Corrections facilities.

“Some of these offenders suffer stress and anxiety due to receiving services from different providers,” the lawsuit said.

In addition to standard medical care, the contract also calls for the vendor to provide dental, behavioral health and pharmacy services to the state’s 20 prisons.

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