Former prisoners of Arizona are being charged for medical procedures that should have been paid for by the state. Ashley Wilkeyson broke her ankle during a softball game at Perryville Women’s Prison while serving her sentence at Goodyear, Ariz. While still imprisoned Wilkeyson received a bill for $2907.
Arizona requires prisoners to pay a $4 copay for the first medical visit, and all further services are contracted and paid for by Corizon Health. Arizona pays Corizon about $200 million to provide health care services, according to Prison Law Office attorney Rita Lomio during an interview with National Public Radio (NPR).
Lomio represents health care issues of men and women in Arizona prisons in class-action lawsuits.
Keith Jones, a representative for a hospital that contracts with Corizon, said the bills inmates receive are coming from individual doctors, not the hospital. Jones deflected hospital responsibility by explaining to the NPR reporter that Corizon contracts with the hospitals. The hospitals contracts with doctors, and doctors contract with billing services.
That makes it difficult to find out exactly where the process is breaking down for Arizona inmates.
This breakdown has consequences for people trying to rebuild their lives after release. According to Lomio, “Undeserved bad credit due to a state contractor’s failure to pay its bills only makes it harder to find housing and gain full employment and to support a family.”
Lomio has accumulated more than $50,000 of inmate medical bills. She has sent multiple letters to Corizon attorneys and has had little success getting bills resolved.
A spokesperson for Corizon told NPR News that when the company is notified of unpaid medical services it resolves them immediately.
Yet Wilkeyson was released from prison a year ago and is still fighting medical bills from her time in prison.
“I feel like I’m just banging my head against a brick wall at this point,” she told NPR reporter Jimmy Jenkins.
Athough she has reached out to person after person within the maze who allegedly could solve her problem, she’s gotten nowhere.
“I keep getting the runaround,” she said.
“ And the collection notices keep coming” noted NPR’s Jenkins.