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Nassau jail health care: Back to square one?

Looks like Nassau’s changing course on finding a vendor to provide health care to inmates at the county jail. The county, on Wednesday, is expected to release a new request for proposals — the latest on Nassau’s bumpy effort to replace the existing provider.

But there’s a change. This time around, instead of seeking a for-profit firm specializing in jail health care, the county will be looking for a hospital to provide that service.

While it remains to be seen what response the county will get — especially since officials at the last hospital provider, Nassau University Medical Center, have said they have no interest in resuming the job — the change in direction seems to be a good one.

For most of County Executive Edward Mangano’s term, the need to cut costs has been the major driver on a number of initiatives.

Bus service, for example, went to a private manager, which saved the county money.

But what was good for Nassau was bad for bus riders, who, even now are being left to scramble because the private provider cut routes — to save the provider money.

The same can be said of the ever-growing number of tax assessment appeals, which the administration said it “solved” by going to a settlement program.

The county saved money by cutting the cost of refunds on successful appeals.

But what was good for Nassau was bad for property owners left paying hefty property taxes — because they didn’t appeal their assessments.

As for the jail, the county’s multiyear contract with for-profit Armor Correctional Services saved millions.

But, again, what was good for Nassau was, according to a series of reports on jail deaths from the state department of correction, bad for some inmates — some of whose families have filed lawsuits against Armor and the county.

It took the state Attorney General’s Office — which filed a now-settled suit against Armor — to exert pressure enough for Nassau to begin looking for a replacement for Armor. Armor also decided not to bid for a new contract. Armor consistently has defended the quality of its inmate care.

And so the county, after sending out a request for proposals, began negotiating with another for-profit jail health care provider, Tennessee-based Correct Care Solutions. According to a report from Newsday’s Bridget Murphy, the company faces more than 145 pending federal lawsuits involving allegations of negligent inmate health care.

A company spokesman, in a statement, told Newsday that CCS would decline to comment since it did not have a Nassau contract, and would not discuss active litigation. But that’s moot now since the Mangano administration ended talks with the company almost two weeks ago after a disagreement over financial terms.

The stumbling block? The firm wanted more money than Nassau was willing to pay — which, even as Nassau negotiates with Armor to stay on until a new vendor can take over, brings the county’s search back to square one.

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