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St. Luke's sues prison contractor over $12 million in medical bills

St. Luke’s Boise Medical Center is one of the locations where St. Luke’s says it provided medical care to prison inmates, then was underpaid by prison contractor Corizon Health.
St. Luke’s Boise Medical Center is one of the locations where St. Luke’s says it provided medical care to prison inmates, then was underpaid by prison contractor Corizon Health.

St. Luke’s Health System is suing an Idaho prison contractor over $12.6 million in medical bills it says the contractor hasn’t paid.

The lawsuit was filed June 28 against Corizon Health, a company hired by the Idaho Department of Correction to provide medical care to Idaho’s inmates.

The dispute stems from Corizon’s decision to pay St. Luke’s at the Medicaid rate for services the health system provided between July 1, 2014, and March 26, 2018. The Medicaid rate is “substantially lower” than the rate the health system says Corizon had agreed to pay, according to the lawsuit. St. Luke’s said it should have received 76 percent of its billed charges.

St. Luke’s also seeks more than $3 million in interest on the medical bills, as well as a total of more than $600,000 for individual patients’ bills it says Corizon underpaid.

“St. Luke’s leaders offered to negotiate with Corizon numerous times, but Corizon refused,” St. Luke’s spokeswoman Anita Kissée said Thursday. “When you consider Corizon’s inaction, the staggering amount of money owed to St. Luke’s and other Idaho hospitals, and that the Idaho Supreme Court has already rejected Corizon’s justification for paying less, St. Luke’s believes the best resolution is now through the courts.”

The lawsuit is the second filed by Idaho health care providers against the contractor. Saint Alphonsus Health System in April sued Corizon over similar claims, saying it was owed $14 million for medical care to inmates. Saint Al’s also sought $5 million in interest from the allegedly unpaid bills.

As in that case, Corizon told the Statesman it believes it has appropriately paid for inmates’ medical care.

“We typically do not comment on active litigation, but in this case we believe it is important for taxpayers and policy makers to understand that like Saint Al’s, St. Luke’s has been appropriately paid for Corizon Health patients,” Marth Harbin, Corizon’s director of external affairs, said Thursday.

St. Luke’s is paid “a compensation level reinforced in statute by the Legislature during the recently completed session,” she said. “We find it unfortunate that a charity hospital would seek an additional $17 million from state taxpayers to care for patients who, if not for being incarcerated, would most likely access the hospital as indigent patients.”

The hospitals argue that the Idaho Supreme Court ruled in January that the statute setting Medicaid as the rate for prison patients does not apply to private medical contractors like Corizon.

Audrey Dutton is an investigative reporter for the Statesman. Contact her at 208-377-6448, adutton@idahostatesman.com or on Twitter at @audreydutton.
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