Corizon Correctional Healthcare, which provides medical services to some 7,000 New Mexico prison inmates, notified employees this week that the company won’t get another four-year contract from the state Corrections Department.

Instead, state officials selected St. Louis-based Centurion LLC to provide medical care to prisoners, The New Mexican has learned.

Rolly Maldonado, Corizon’s senior vice president for state operations, told Corizon’s New Mexico employees by email Tuesday the company was notified that “we will not be retained to provide services in New Mexico.”

Alex Tomlin, deputy secretary for the Corrections Department, would not comment on the email, citing the fact that the agency is still in contract negotiations. Mike Brewer, senior vice president for corporate development for Centurion, did not reply to an email seeking comment.

During a six-month bidding contest for the lucrative contract, state officials rejected both Corizon and Wexford Health Sources, which have come under intense scrutiny here and across the nation over the quality of health care services they provided to inmates.

Under Corizon, which replaced Wexford in 2007 when the state fired Wexford, 200 inmates alleged in 150 lawsuits that issues ranging from broken bones to breast cancer to sexual abuse went unaddressed under its care. An investigation by The New Mexican published in April found that, despite warning signs, the Department of Corrections routinely failed to audit Corizon.

Maldonado said in his email to Corizon employees this week: “We are very disappointed by this development as our technical proposal was ranked number one out of three vendors. The contract to provide healthcare services to the offender population in New Mexico has been awarded to Centurion and will be effective June 1, 2016. We would like to assure our team that until such time as this contract becomes effective, we will be continuing to explore any and all other options for retaining this valuable client partner.”

Centurion bills itself as “the next generation of correctional healthcare,” combining the resources of two companies: The correctional health care provider MHM Services Inc. and a managed care company, Centene Corporation.

Centurion has been picking up contracts that Corizon has lost. It also is capitalizing on its expertise in managed care to convince government entities that the company knows how to navigate federal health care reforms.

Florida this year awarded Centurion a contract to oversee inmate medical services after Corizon and that state cut ties amid allegations that Corizon didn’t provide proper care there or that the state did not pay Corizon enough to properly care for inmates. Centurion also provides correctional health care in Mississippi, Vermont, Minnesota, Tennessee and Massachusetts.

Corizon spokeswoman Martha Harbin said in an email Wednesday that the company has been “honored to provide for the past nine years compassionate and appropriate care to those incarcerated in New Mexico’s prisons and [is] evaluating [its] options as they relate to this procurement.

“Corizon’s proposal to the State of New Mexico received a technical score of 516, compared to selected provider Centurion’s 504 and Wexford’s 492 and was offered at a price $11 million lower than the selected provider’s,” she said. “This is a significant difference, particularly in a year in which the governor and legislature were forced to slash $31 million in state spending, and taxpayers deserve to have the department’s decision-making process carefully scrutinized. Regardless of the ultimate outcome, we stand committed to ensuring the care and safety of our patients and the welfare of our employees.”

Harbin said a state official told a Corizon official Wednesday that the state did not award the pharmaceutical element of the contract to Centurion.

Tomlin said that while the agency put out one request for proposals, it will be issuing two separate contracts. One contract will cover medical care for inmates while the other will cover pharmaceutical services, she said. Under the current contract, which expires May 31, Corizon provides both medical care and pharmaceutical services.

Tomlin confirmed the department has awarded one of those contracts. She would not say which one nor how much it would cost. New Mexico paid Corizon some $156 million under the current four-year agreement.

“The department is actively working to acquire medical and pharmaceutical services that are the greatest benefit to our inmates and taxpayers, who pay that bill at the end of the day,” Tomlin said.

Staff writer Phaedra Haywood contributed to this report.

Contact Justin Horwath at 505-986-3017 or jhorwath@sfnewmexican.com.

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