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Drug Testing Welfare Recipients Could Line Florida Gov Rick Scott’s Pockets

When Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) signed the law requiring welfare recipients to pass annual drug tests to collect benefits, he justified the likely unconstitutional law by saying it would save the state money by keeping drug users from using public money to subsidize their drug habits. Drug use, Scott claimed, was higher among welfare recipients than among the rest of the population.

Preliminary results from the state’s first round of testing, however, has seemingly proven both of those claims false. Only 2 percent of welfare recipients failed drug tests, meaning the state must reimburse the cost of the $30 drug tests to the 96 percent of recipients who passed drug tests (two percent did not take the tests). After reimbursements, the state’s savings will be almost negligible, the Tampa Tribune reports:

Cost of the tests averages about $30. Assuming that 1,000 to 1,500 applicants take the test every month, the state will owe about $28,800-$43,200 monthly in reimbursements to those who test drug-free.

That compares with roughly $32,200-$48,200 the state may save on one month’s worth of rejected applicants.

Net savings to the state: $3,400 to $5,000 annually on one month’s worth of rejected applicants. Over 12 months, the money saved on all rejected applicants would add up to $40,800 to $60,000 for a program that state analysts have predicted will cost $178 million this fiscal year.

While the state will save little, if any, money on the drug testing racket, Scott’s family could stand to gain financially. A former health care executive, Scott founded Solantic Corp., a chain of walk-in health care clinics that provides, among other services, drug tests. Scott maintains that he has no involvement in the company, but he does have $62 million worth of the company’s shares contained in a blind trust under his wife’s name. Though there is no conflict under Florida law unless the company deals with the governor’s office directly, the company, and thus Scott’s investment, could benefit from the increased traffic from drug tests.

Meanwhile, the state’s already-small annual savings could be wiped out entirely by the cost of implementing the program and issuing the reimbursements. And as Derek Newton, the spokesman for the Florida chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, told the Tribune, the cost of the program could skyrocket if the state has to defend it in court. The ACLU is still considering a lawsuit challenging the law’s constitutionality, Newton said.

If the ACLU or anyone else were to challenge the law, the lawsuit would likely succeed. As UCLA law professor Adam Winkler wrote after Scott signed the law, “Random drug-testing is what is known as a ‘suspicion-less search,’” and outside of a few limited instances, courts have “generally frowned upon” drug testing that occurs at random and without probable cause. “Indeed, courts have stuck down policies just like the ones put in place by Florida,” Winkler wrote, citing two cases to back up the claim.

As for Scott’s second claim, that drug use is higher among welfare recipients, the test results also show that to be false. While only 2 percent of welfare recipients failed drug tests, a 2008 study by the Office of National Drug Control Policy found that approximately 8 percent of Floridians age 12 and up had used illegal drugs in the last month, and 9.69 percent had smoked marijuana in the last year.

By: Travis Waldron, Think Progress, August 24, 2011

August 25, 2011 Posted by | Businesses, Class Warfare, Conservatives, Constitution, GOP, Gov Rick Scott, Governors, Ideologues, Ideology, Lawmakers, Medicare Fraud, Politics, Public, Republicans, Right Wing, State Legislatures, States, Teaparty, Wealthy | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

June 3, 2011 Posted by | Capitalism, Class Warfare, Conservatives, Consumers, Corporations, Elections, GOP, Gov Rick Scott, Governors, Health Care, Health Care Costs, Ideologues, Ideology, Lawmakers, Medicaid, Medicare, Medicare Fraud, Politics, Public, Public Health, Republicans, Right Wing, Seniors, Solantic, State Legislatures, States | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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