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Private equity-owned YesCare dodges liability with “get-out-of-jail-free card”

October 17, 2023

U.S. prison healthcare provider continues to profit in the midst of wrongful death and sexual abuse lawsuits

A new evaluation of U.S. prison healthcare provider YesCare documents how the private equity-owned company used a bankruptcy strategy to evade liabilities for the conditions of the patients in its care. YesCare, one of the largest providers of healthcare services in U.S. prisons and jails, has been owned by private equity (PE) firms for at least 16 years—including BPOC, BlueMountain Capital, Flacks Group, and Perigrove Capital.

The study, “YesCare Dodges Liability for Prison Conditions: Merger, Division, and Bankruptcy,” written by Private Equity Stakeholder Project (PESP) researcher Michael Fenne, chronicles the consequences of YesCare’s private equity ownership. With a business model prioritizing high profits and excessive cost-cutting or under-resourcing, private equity ownership, especially in the healthcare industry, can lead to poor patient care and allegations of neglect and mistreatment. YesCare was originally known as Corizon Health until May 2022, when its owners took a series of steps to restructure the company and divide it into two entities: YesCare and a newly rebranded Corizon Health.

“As of late 2021, YesCare had faced more than 1,000 lawsuits alleging substandard care,” said Michael Fenne, PESP healthcare researcher and report author. “According to one estimate for a five-year period, YesCare was sued for wrongful death or sexual abuse more than 1,300 times.”

Most egregious was YesCare’s use of a convoluted bankruptcy scheme that allowed it to continue to operate while shedding liabilities and lawsuits against it into a different business entity. Coined the “Texas Two-step Bankruptcy,” this restructuring allowed private equity firms to profit off of YesCare’s operations while debt obligations were shuffled to the newly branded Corizon Health,where legal claims against the company could be paused in bankruptcy. The Texas Two-step was described by U.S. Senator Dick Durbin as a “get out of jail free card.”

“The bankruptcy strategy may allow YesCare and its PE owners to evade accountability for millions in liabilities,” Fenne said. “Through this bankruptcy scheme, YesCare and its PE owners have attempted to shake off responsibility for the potential liability for company misdeeds. Healthcare providers seeking profits from prisons and jails should not have an escape hatch if they are found liable for harms created by poor services.”

Just announced this month is a $37 million settlement in bankruptcy court ​​reached by YesCare and its backers. More than 350 personal injury claims filed by inmates are estimated to recover rates between 17% and 36% if the deal is approved.

If policy makers and regulators allow privately-held healthcare companies to evade legal liability for harmful business practices, more bad actors—including other private equity firms—may be drawn to do the same, exploiting patients and families for short-term gain.

The full report on YesCare’s history, its private equity ownership, and its bankruptcy tactics can be found HERE.

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