Prison health-care contract turned over to JLAC, auditor

J. Clark Kelso, California’s federally appointed prison health-care receiver, has turned over a controversial health-care contract with Health Net to the Joint Legislative Audit Committee and State Auditor Elaine Howle.

Committee Chairman Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, said the panel would review the contract — which remains confidential, in part because of exemptions under the Public Records Act — and release a review of its findings. Lara said he did not know when the report would be made available. 

It is the first time such a contract will be scrutinized in its entirety by anyone other than the receiver and selected sub-contractors, according to the committee.

On Dec. 12, Capitol Weekly reported that provisions of the state Public Records Act allowed certain types of information to be held back from the public, including contracts related to prison health care services that are exempt from the PRA and protected by government codes that keep its contents largely confidential.

Kelso, in a Capitol Weekly commentary shortly before Christmas, noted that “in the interest of full disclosure and accountability, I chose to make public a redacted version that discloses as much of the contract as possible and am proactively providing complete copies of the contract without redactions to the Joint Legislative Audit Committee and the Bureau of State Audits, the two Legislative bodies authorized under statute to have access to the complete contract.”

The receiver also provided copies to Office of the Inspector General, which requested the contract over the holidays, his office said.

An Assembly investigative committee said it had sought copies of the health-care contract in October. The receiver provided documents, but with the dollar numbers redacted, the committee said.

The exemptions, at least in part, are intended to protect trade secrets within the insurance industry. 

Until now, only redacted versions of the contract have been selectively distributed upon request. Under the contract, apparently worth hundreds of millions of dollars, Health Net will provide prison health-care services within California, which has some 166,000 inmates. A description of the contract, without the costs to the public, can be seen here.

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