Contract Review Committee members placed an Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) health care services contract with YesCare on hold Thursday over its over $1 billion price tag and concerns about the fairness of the bid process.

The contract between ADOC and YesCare totals $1.064 billion from April 2023 to September 2027 for comprehensive healthcare to all inmates in the physical custody and control of the ADOC.

ADOC announced in a press release in December they'd selected YesCare to enter into negotiations to be ADOC's health care provider for its 27 correctional facilities. It was the department's second request for proposals (RFP) process to select a healthcare provider in 2022.  

ADOC's first RFP round earlier in 2022 was discontinued after "some information came to our attention that there had been possible undue influence, or at least the appearance of undue influence, and so out of fairness to all the vendors and in the interest of transparency to the state we went ahead and rescinded that intent to award," according to Mary-Coleman Roberts, ADOC's acting general counsel. 

YesCare was the bid winner in the first RFP round, too, before ADOC rescinded it in August.

"(We) pulled that RFP and re-issued it several months later with some tweaks," Roberts said at the meeting on Thursday. "We had information that one of our vendors had contact with someone outside of our committee, but that may have known something about the RFP's content, and so we felt like even though everyone signed statements saying that there was nothing improper about that, that was enough of sort of a black cloud over that particular contract that we did not want to move forward with it. We just thought in all fairness to all vendors involved that we should pull it and re-issue it."

YesCare was among four health care companies that responded to the ADOC's request for proposals (RFP), which was issued on Sept. 26, 2022. In addition to YesCare's proposal, the ADOC received proposals from Centurion, VitalCore, and Wexford, according to ADOC's press release in December.

"The RFP evaluation committee conducted a thorough and extensive examination of each vendor's proposal. After careful consideration of the evaluation committee's recommendations, the ADOC decided to enter into contract negotiations with YesCare based on a combination of quality care and overall cost," said ADOC Commissioner John Hamm in a statement in December.

State Rep. Chris England (D-Tuscaloosa) asked Roberts for more information about issues with the first RFP for the health care services contract.

"I need to know what those allegations are," England said. "The reason I'm saying that is we're talking about a $1 billion, and we're also talking about the Department of Corrections. Just based on recent activity, most, if not all, the things the Department of Corrections is involved in need to be looked at several times."

England also asked Roberts about YesCare's relationship with Bill Lunsford, a lawyer who represents ADOC.

"He is not currently on the board," Roberts said at the meeting. "He was on an advisory board only. That's my understanding. He had nothing to do with this proposal and this contract. There was an offer extended for him to be on the board. I don't know if that ever happened. In any event, by the time the second RFP was issued, he was no longer on the board and no longer affiliated with YesCare in any way."

YesCare announced Lunsford as a member of the company's Board of Advisors in June. ADOC paid Lunsford approximately $7.1 million for legal work in fiscal year 2022, according to the state's open checkbook site.

"We did not find that any actual undue influence occurred, but there was enough appearance of that that we did not feel comfortable proceeding," Roberts said. "We changed the RFP, and we gave everybody the same information, and we felt like Bill Lunsford's representation of YesCare, and the fact that he was willing to separate and distance himself from that and resign from the board was sufficient to allow YesCare to re-bid."

State Sen. Dan Roberts (R-Mountain Brook) said at the meeting that he'd be placing a hold on the contract.

"I met with y'all last week and then had some long meetings all day yesterday on this topic," Roberts said. "I met with the Commissioner this morning to discuss this. I'm going to hold this. I think there's some ways that we, intra-agency if you will, between Medicaid and maybe Medicare at some point, can work together. In essence, some things can be done to cover some of these medical costs. This contract is huge, as we all know, but I think there may be some solutions here. That's one of the things I'd like to work with you guys on."

YesCare, headquartered in Brentwood, Tenn., has more than 40 years of correctional health care experience, having served clients and patients at more than 475 facilities across the country. In its recommendation, the RFP review committee considered the "company's experience and qualifications, delivery of care, program management, support services, staffing requirements, and compensation," according to an ADOC press release.

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