Gov. Rick Scott May Personally Benefit From New Law That Hands Medicaid Program Over To Private Companies
Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) signed “a landmark Medicaid overhaul” yesterday that will put “hundreds of thousands of low-income and elderly Floridians into managed-care plans.” The proposal “gives managed care companies more control over the program that’s paid for with federal and state money,” a shift the state GOP claims will “hold down spiraling costs in the $20 billion program.” However, as TP Health editor Igor Volsky pointed out, a five-county pilot program in Florida already revealed that such a plan produces “widespread complaints and little evidence of savings.” Under managed care, states “have to ensure that private payers aren’t looking out for short term profits by denying treatments or reducing reimbursement rates” and — given what occurred during the pilot program — the results “are already less than promising.”
But Scott may have another reason to push a dubious bill into law. As Mother Jones reported, one of the private managed-care companies that stand to gain from the new law is Solantic, “a chain of urgent-care clinics aimed at providing emergency services to walk-in customers. Solantic was founded in 2001 — by none other than Rick Scott:
The Florida governor founded Solantic in 2001, only a few years after he resigned as the CEO of hospital giant Columbia/HCA amid a massive Medicare fraud scandal. In January, according to the Palm Beach Post, he transferred his $62 million stake in Solantic to his wife, Ann Scott, a homemaker involved in various charitable organizations.[...]
“This is a conflict of interest that raises a serious ethical issue,” says Marc Rodwin, a medical ethics professor at Suffolk University Law School in Boston. “The public should be thinking and worrying about this.”
Scott’s office dismissed the conflict of interest concern as “incorrect and baseless.” However, Scott’s history of fraud with entitlement programs (in that case Medicare) should certainly raise a red flag here. And it is not as if Scott is completely clean when it comes to the mix between professional office and personal interest.
Incidentally, Scott also just signed a bill that will require anyone applying for welfare benefits to pay for a drug test to qualify for benefits. They will only recoup that fee if they pass. One company that provides such drug tests? Solantic.
By: Tanya Somander, Think Progress, June 3, 2011
Florida Gov. Rick Scott is one of the most entertainingly shameless figures in American political life. In the 1990s, Scott headed Columbia/HCA Healthcare, the largest for-profit hospital in America. While Scott was running Columbia/HCA Healthcare, it got involved in a bit — okay, a lot — of fraud. As Forbes reported, the company “increased Medicare billings by exaggerating the seriousness of the illnesses they were treating. It also granted doctors partnerships in company hospitals as a kickback for the doctors referring patients to HCA. In addition, it gave doctors ‘loans’ that were never expected to be paid back, free rent, free office furniture, and free drugs from hospital pharmacies.”
The scale of the fraud was so immense that Columbia/HCA Healthcare ended up paying more than $2 billion (PDF) back to the federal government in the single largest fraud case in history. (The previous record holder? Drexel Burnham.) Scott resigned shortly before the judgment came down.
Today, Scott is enjoying a second act as governor of Florida. And, as Suzy Khimm reports, he doesn’t seem all that chastened. Before running for office, he turned his $62 million stake in Solantic, the urgent-care clinic chain he founded after resigning from Columbia/HCA Healthcare, over to a trust in his wife’s name. Solantic doesn’t take traditional Medicaid, but it does work with the private HMOs that, under a 2005 pilot program, were allowed to contract with Medicaid. And Scott is now pushing a bill that would expand that program across the state making those HMOs — the ones Solantic works with — the norm for Medicaid.
Asked about the apparent conflict of interest, Scott said, “If you look at everything that I want to accomplish in health care in Florida is basically what I’ve believed all my life. I believe in the principle that if you have more competition it will drive down the prices.” And I believe him. But he could have sold his stake in Solantic when he got into government. Since he didn’t, the fact remains that Scott is pushing a policy his family stands to profit from immensely . Which is, for Scott, real progress. In the 1990s, he made his money off single-payer health-care programs by cheating them. Today, he’s making his money off single-payer health-care programs by running them. No matter how you look at it, it’s a step up.
By: Ezra Klein, The Washington Post, March 25, 2011