August 7, 2009

CPR's Rick Scott twists in the wind as he tries to explain how he as the CEO of HCA had no idea his former company was participating in the practice of upcoding, where they defrauded the Medicare system for more than a decade and were forced to pay a $1.7 billion fine, the highest in U.S. history.

SANCHEZ: It sure looks to me like he's pointing his finger right at you. Do you think he is?

SCOTT: I think he was.

SANCHEZ: Yes, yes. Do you -- do you take credit -- I was just having a conversation with Eric Boehlert and they said, look, this guy has got this Web site. In fact, I'll show it to the viewers again. There's your Web site right there. We'll take it all the way to the very top. People can see it. It's CPR, Conservatives for Patients' Rights.

And there, you tell people where they can go, to these town-hall meetings. You tell them what they can do. You show them videos of what's been done so far.

Some people have used the word "orchestrated." I'm not sure what word you would use. But do you take credit for making sure this is going on? SCOTT: It would be nice to, right? But -- because I believe that people ought to show up to these meetings. They ought to be nicer about it. But they ought to show up to these meetings and tell them what they think.

I think they ought to show up whatever side you're on. You ought to let people know. I mean, we're going through a significant debate about what ought to happen in health care. Show up and tell them what you think.

SANCHEZ: But -- but you're -- but -- but let's be fair about this. You're not trying to get everybody to go. You're trying to gin up the people who are going to be on your side. I mean, you've got a lot to gain from this, don't you?

SCOTT: Well, I believe -- I clearly believe that government-run health care will be bad for you as a patient. It will be bad for you as a taxpayer. It will be bad for our country. But most importantly, bad for you as a patient.

Now, would I rather people show up that care about the debate on -- the way I believe? Absolutely. But when I'm on radio -- I'm on a lot of talk radio. I say show up, read the bill.

SANCHEZ: But you know, let's talk about this, though. I mean, the accusation that the White House was essentially making, one that you haven't challenged yet to my knowledge. Maybe you will here now.

Columbia Hospital Corporation, which you founded...

SCOTT: Absolutely.

SANCHEZ: ... which later became HCA, which made you, from my understanding, incredibly wealthy, was charged with defrauding the government for more than a decade and had to pay a record fine of $1.7 billion.

I mean, some would argue, and it would be hard to say they're wrong, that you would be the poster child for everything that's wrong with the greed that has hurt our current health-care system. People would ask, why should they listen to you?

SCOTT: Well, you don't have to listen to me. You should look at the facts. You should read the bills.

If you want to go back and look at Columbia HCA, you should look at what we accomplished. Health-care costs when I got into the industry in '88 were 16 percent a year inflation. When I got out in 1997, they were less than 1 percent. We had the highest patient satisfaction; we had the best outcomes.

Now, if you were in the hospital business in the late '80s, you went through Medicare investigations. President Clinton expanded the investigations. They said, "If you made a mistake in your filing, that was called fraud." Not only did Columbia HCA...

SANCHEZ: But one point -- but $1.7 billion? That's the highest ever paid in the history of the United States that your company ended up having to pay as a result of what you did by defrauding the government?

SCOTT: The -- no one went to jail. I was never accused of anything. Now let's think about it: $1.7 billion sounds like a lot. We had 343 -- 343 hospitals, 150 surgery centers, over 100,000 patients a day.

Now, let's look at the industry. Cleveland Clinic paid big fines. Mayo paid big fines. Yale paid big fines. Now, were they as big? No. How many hospitals did they have?

SANCHEZ: But you're the guy who's sitting here telling us that we can't allow the government to do this because it won't work, and they might take over or do some things that are -- that are wrong. How much more wrong can you be than what you just said? Not only has your company screwed up, and you just admitted to it. But you're saying, "And look at all the other companies, they did the same thing."

SCOTT: No, I don't believe that at all.

SANCHEZ: It doesn't sound to me like a sterling system that we have, does it?

SCOTT: I think -- that's right. You ought to fix the system. You ought to say, why do we have 135,000 pages of Medicare regulations that people work their tail off? The hospital industry to this day works its tail off to do the right thing.

But don't believe me. Read the bill. Beside, do you want your taxes to go up? Do you want a UK system? Do you want a Canadian system?

SANCHEZ: Some people would answer, yes, they do. As a matter of fact, in Canada, I think they pay one half of what Americans pay for health care. And most of them are proud as pudding of their health- care system. They write me here every day, saying, "I can't believe Americans don't like our system. We think it's absolutely fantastic."

By the way, let me ask you a question. Your company was accused of something called upcoding. That means they treated patients for something minor but charged the government, the taxpayers, for something expensive. That was the accusation. Is that true?

SCOTT: I have -- Rick, I have no idea. Rick, I have no idea. I was -- I never did anything with Medicare. I started a company. I bought hospitals. I bought HCA. I bought all the Humana hospitals. Let's go back to...

SANCHEZ: All right. Let me ask you this one then. Here's the other accusation, as I was reading about what some people say your company may have been involved in. Your company would go into a region. They would buy up all the hospitals, and then they would shut them all down except for one to make that one hospital very powerful. I mean, I guess that's a good business plan. But is that good for patients?

SCOTT: Absolutely. Now, first off, that didn't happen. We did buy 20 hospitals that we consolidated. It goes on every day, and -- not every day. It goes on throughout the country, all the time. It's happened since before I got into the business and afterwards.

But here's the reason why you want that to happen as a patient.


SCOTT: You want to make sure -- you want to make sure that your hospital has the best equipment. So if you have a hospital that has more patients and can afford the best equipment, you want your hospital to be successful. They have the right equipment. They can hire the right employees.

SANCHEZ: Well, I'm reading a report here, though, from "The Post and Courier" that says -- they say your hospitals had consistent dirty facilities. The doctors say the gloves they were asked to used to operate were so cheap they would break. And nurses say they had to treat so many patients they weren't able to handle the demand.

SCOTT: Well, let's look at the numbers. How could I have the lowest cost to a patient? I did. You look at the studies. I had better patient satisfaction in the industry by a long shot, and I had better outcomes. Because we measured everything.

So -- so who probably put that out? No different than what's happening today. The unions put these things out, because they want to unionize your hospitals. But if you look at the facts...


SCOTT: ... lower prices, better outcomes and better patient satisfaction.

SANCHEZ: But you're not saying all of these things are true? I mean, you're copping to the fact that your company had to pay $1.7 billion, which is still the most ever paid in the history of the United States, right?

SCOTT: After I left, the company paid those fines. The company did not pay those fines when I was there. When I bought -- when I bought...

SANCHEZ: But hold on. No, no, no, no. You're playing -- you're playing with the facts, sir. Let me tell you what happened.


SANCHEZ: These charges were charged against your company while you were there, while you were the boss, and it happened over a period of ten years. Yes, they were paid after you left, but the accused -- but they accused them of happening while you were leading the company? You know that.

SCOTT: And, Rick -- and, Rick, it was covering time frames before I bought those companies, and it covered time frames afterwards.

SANCHEZ: I guess the point I'm making is, though, look, people are going to look at you as the guy who's telling all these people out there, which is your right as an American and good for them for wanting to get out there and have a point of view and be passionate about their money and their tax money.

SCOTT: Right.

SANCHEZ: But some people are going to look at your record and some of the things that you and I just talked about and say, "This is the guy who's leading this charge. Is he the one that we should be listening to?" Not exactly a perfect past when it comes to what's right for taxpayers and patients?

SCOTT: Absolutely. If you care about patient satisfaction, if you care about cost, if you care about quality, you absolutely do.

SANCHEZ: All right. Rick Scott, you know what? Thank you, sir, for taking the heat and taking the questions. We appreciate having you on.

SCOTT: All right. Thank you.

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