Florida Republican Governor Rick Scott better hope his wife doesn’t leave him any time soon.
Scott transferred 62 million dollars in Solantic stock (a chain of healthcare clinics) to a revocable trust in his wife’s name after he got elected. Now he’s passing a bill that will hugely benefit Solantic. He calls this privatization, which might ring a bell for you since Republicans have been singing its high praises ever since they discovered government contracts (i.e., socialized profits for their private companies, aka, welfare for the wealthy). Basically, your tax dollars will soon be going directly to Rick Scott’s wife’s bank account if his bill passes.
Perhaps in Republican circles, transferring your stock options into your wife’s name is distancing yourself from your personal profit. Sure, Republicans hate to empower a woman like that (hence, the trust is “revocable”), but it’s either give the stocks to her or heaven forbid, sell them just before you get into office and finally get to pass laws to enrich yourself, aka, the “Medicaid Reform Law.”
It sounds so Foxian, so “competition-oriented” – so “clean out government waste and fraudish.” Scott’s “Medicaid Reform” would give private health care companies unprecedented control over the government health care program for the poor, expanding on a pilot program started in Florida in 2005.
Mother Jones reported that the privatization pilot program was a total bust and caused huge delays in healthcare for patients:
According to a 2008 study by the Georgetown Center for Children and Families, participants experienced huge delays and restricted access to necessary treatments, says the center’s co-executive director, Joan Alker. Patients found the new system bureaucratic and confusing—and HMOs were prone to dropping out without warning. Dr. Aaron Elkin, president of the Broward County Medical Association, recently declared the program to be a failure. And Medicaid patients don’t have much better reviews. “It has taken four months to get a biopsy on a throat cancer due to the impediments placed by the HMOs for authorizations,” one participant in the program told NPR.
Gosh, that rings a bell, doesn’t it? These are the sorts of problems the Republicans claimed government healthcare would cause. Working with the SwiftBoat folks, Scott created the astroturf movement “Conservatives for Patient’s Rights” to oppose the Democrats’ healthcare reform act on the basis that it would be a “takeover” by “Washington bureaucrats” who would force patients to “stand in line” for care (also known as waiting 4 months for a throat biopsy).
And yet, these exact problems were caused by privatization. Perhaps it would be fair for us to call Scott’s privatization bill “Death Panels for Profit.”
Scott’s company, Solantic, does not take Medicaid, but they do business with private Medicaid HMOs. There are 32 Solantic clinics around the state of Florida, and they are growing rapidly – looking to do an IPO any day now. According to Scott’s female partner and former TV anchor, Solantic is the fourth largest clinic in the country.
In the 1990’s, Scott headed Columbia/HCA Healthcare, the largest for-profit hospital in America. Under Scott’s leadership, Columbia/HCA committed major Medicare fraud. They had to pay the government 2 billion dollars in settlement fees and interest, which made it the largest fraud case in history. The company was found guilty of systematically over-billing the taxpayer for services. Scott was forced to resign just before the judgment came down and Dr. Thomas Frist Jr., brother of U.S. Sen. Bill Frist, R-Tenn., was brought in to replace him as chairman and CEO. Feel better yet?
Forbes reported that HCA “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.”
Rick’s stewardship in one of the FBI’s highest priority white-collar crimes brought fraud not just to Florida, but also Texas, Georgia and Tennessee, in case you were feeling left out. This is what Rick Scott calls the competitive “free market.” And they wonder why we need regulators and we wonder why they don’t want them. Not to worry, though, Scott was paid $9.88 million in a settlement for being forced to resign as CEO, and he also left owning 10 million shares of stock worth over $350 million.
When Republicans tell you that private hospitals will be more “cost efficient,” they meant they are more cost efficient for the private company that has a deal with the government to get their hands on your tax dollars while denying services to the needy that you pay for. When they tell you these CEOs deserve their pay because they are “job creators,” it’s fair to ask just who paid for those jobs. When Republicans tout themselves as pro-business and claim that running a state or the country is like being the CEO, it’s probably best to look into their background and see exactly what they did with that company they ran. If they, like Scott, ran a company that admitted to committing fourteen felonies, you might want to think twice before turning your state’s coffers over to him.
A few years after the major fraud debacle, Scott started Solantic, a chain of urgent cares that quickly became one stop shopping for healthcare, sort of like the Wal-Mart of healthcare (an irony here is that urgent care clinics have grown as people are not able to take time off of work to see their regular doctors). Then Scott ran for governor, won, and refused to sell off his stock options or exclude his company from profiting from his legislation. Cue the stock transfer to his wife.
By the way, Solantic is currently under investigation by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for alleged Medicare fraud.
Do you want to turn your healthcare decisions over to a man who already had to step down for Medicare fraud once? I mean, do you think he has your best interests at heart?
Do you think anyone who stands to make a profit from not giving you services and who has already proven that profit rules his ethics and morals will suddenly want to do the right thing? Does it scare you when I say that Scott’s bill puts a “hard cap” on what these “private companies” can spend on their Medicaid patients? In other words, it’s not going to be about what you need anymore, but about what they can afford to give you within their profit model.
Leave it to a Republican governor to put a cherry on the insult. Scott signed an executive order ordering drug tests for state employees. And wouldn’t you know it, drug tests are one of the more popular services provided by Solantic. He’s also suggesting they do the same for welfare recipients.
“Floridians deserve to know that those in public service, whose salaries are paid with taxpayer dollars, are part of a drug-free workplace,” Scott said in a statement. “Just as it is appropriate to screen those seeking taxpayer assistance, it is also appropriate to screen government employees.”
Big daddy is in the house, and he’s cleaning up government fraud and waste by those awful, horrible, lazy, entitled state workers and the welfare bums won’t get away with it anymore! In other words, keep your eye over here, on the state workers and the welfare recipients while Scott dips his hands into the wide-open cookie jar of your tax dollars and just takes what he wants. After Enron, our non-activisty supreme court ruled that enriching oneself at the taxpayers cost is not illegal. So technically, Scott’s theft of the taxpayers to enrich himself is not prosecutable this time around.
No wonder he ran for office.
Florida does, however, have an ethics code that supposedly prevents them using their office for private gain. Scott spokespeople led voters to believe that Scott would recuse himself regulatory decisions that might impact his single largest financial holding, Solantic, since he refused to put the stocks in a blind trust.
Speaking of money, those drug tests will cost 2-3 million a year for taxpayers, plus the costs of the inevitable litigation. But it’s worth it, Scott’s administration assures us, for the peace of mind that your tax dollars won’t be paying for some drug addict to have a job.
Again, no need to concern yourself with Scott’s fortunes, as he owns a stake in S&S Family Entertainment as well as having been tied to Fox News via WebMD and Fit TV. Color yourself shocked. You might also like to know that Solantic has been subjected to numerous employment discrimination suits, stemming from an alleged Scott policy of not hiring overweight or elderly people. Also, Scott was once business partners with George W Bush.
And we wonder why things aren’t going well in Florida….
It seems that nosing into private healthcare decisions and playing hall-monitor to state employees is what Republicans do best. Of course, they do this best when they’re using your tax dollars to enrich their cronies and themselves.
If Scott wanted to put his money where his mouth is, he’d issue random drug tests for his doctors and nurses at Solantic, as well as monthly independent audits of the books. We can’t be too careful, after all. We have a known fraudster at the helm in Florida and he’s turning taxpayer money over to his private company. Kinda seems like we better keep an eye on him.
And he’d better keep an eye on his wife.