A high-powered team of prisoner-rights lawyers is investigating the Monterey County Jail’s health care provider, Wellpath, due to a series of inmate deaths allegedly caused by contract violations. Wellpath is one of the largest providers of health care in U.S. jails and prisons and has faced numerous lawsuits for wrongful deaths. The company’s poor performance is attributed to rapid growth and a focus on increasing profits at the expense of proper medical care.
Voices of Monterey Bay July 14, 2023: Pain, death and secrets in Monterey County Jail
The federal judiciary is overseeing the jail due to its unsafe conditions, and an upcoming hearing will determine if recurring fines of up to $1 million are warranted until Wellpath complies with federal mandates. Monterey County pays Wellpath $15 million annually, and the company is owned by private eqtuiy firm H.I.G. Capital.
PESP healthcare researcher published a report on PE-owned Wellpath last year titled “Private Equity Firms Rebrand Prison Healthcare Companies, But Care Issues Continue.” Notably, the report details the long history Wellpath has with its political activities across many states. Their political contributions have focused many times on local sheriff’s races, a trend that reveals the central nature of their tactics to get awarded county level prison contracts. The research reveals a pattern of relationship-building through existing correctional clients and associates.
In the Voices of Monterey Bay piece, Fenne described the trends he has seen with Wellpath’s incursion into county correctional facilities across the country.
“Michael Fenne of the Private Equity Stakeholder Project, the hedge fund watchdog group, says only a few counties or states nationwide have been able to get away from for-profit providers such as Wellpath. Some have discarded Wellpath and gone with competing firms and some have done the reverse.”
“Whichever company runs a jail’s health care, the profit motive typically leads to cost-cutting measures, quality concerns and patient harm,” Fenne told Voices of Monterey Bay.