Legislators in 2011 approved the health care privatization but tucked it into the overall budget. That move sparked a court fight, but a judge this summer declared the case over because the outsourcing provision expired at the end of the June, when the state's fiscal year ended.
But the department contends another law lets it move ahead without legislative approval. The agency said it only needed the budget panel's approval to pay for it.
Corrections officials previously said if the state does not privatize health care for nearly 100,000 inmates it will create more than a $60 million deficit in the department's budget.
The department has signed a five-year contract with Brentwood, Tenn.-based Corizon for prisons north of Palm Beach County, displacing about 1,800 state workers. The agency is still negotiating with Wexford Health Sources Inc., headquartered in Pittsburgh, for a South Florida contract.
The department advised Corizon, when the contract was signed, not to hire displaced state workers until litigation is resolved, said agency spokeswoman Ann Howard.
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