Seriously, I wrote about Rick Scott's swiftboating, lying ways way back in May. Back then I told you about how even if Florida voters overlooked his swiftboaty tactics, they should not and could not overlook his lying, criminal conduct with regard to Columbia/HCA.
Yet, they did. It boggles the mind. Of course, Scott did what he always does, and lied through his teeth about how that whole debacle came to pass and his own involvement in it. Forget that he used some legal maneuvers and plea agreements to end the mess. He was, in his mind anyway, above it all.
Rick Scott has always used this one excuse: "If I had known about the fraud, I would have stopped it." Baloney, and the St. Petersburg Times agrees.
But he was cautioned year after year that the financial incentives Columbia/HCA offered doctors could run afoul of a federal antikickback law that seeks to limit conflicts of interest in Medicare and Medicaid.
They were contained in the company's annual public reports to stockholders that Scott, now the Republican candidate for Florida governor, signed as Columbia/HCA's president and chief executive officer.
Scott today says he doesn't remember the reports he signed, but that the warning language sounded like "boilerplate, written by SEC lawyers just to cover all bases." Indeed, the precautions mirrored those issued by some other health care companies.
Oh, I see. That stuff lawyers just put in as a precaution that really doesn't deserve the CEO OF THE COMPANY'S ATTENTION? There's a qualifier for him to become CEO of the state of Florida, I guess. Would state compliance with federal laws just become another set of legal disclaimers that don't really need to be followed? Is that how he intends to govern the state?
In case you don't like that explanation, there's another:
Under the new Columbia/HCA, the warnings apparently went unheeded as it began acquiring hospitals, at one point, at a rate of one a day to become one of the nation's largest employers — and the most revolutionary private-market force in health care, said J.D. Kleinke, a Portland, Ore., health economist who studied Columbia/HCA.
"Rick Scott forced most of the system to grow up, to act like real businesses, to do difficult things with unions, with efficiency and with old sleepy bureaucratic practices," Kleinke said. "He was the Henry Ford of health care, turning the hospital into a brutally run but efficient system, a factory almost."
Kleinke said Columbia/HCA was more guilty of exploiting gray areas of the law — such as the doctor payments — than in actually committing rampant fraud. But he said Scott was on a crash course with the industry and the government, thanks to his drive to shake up the hospital industry and take on then-President Bill Clinton over health care.
"Rick was an outsider," he said. "And much of the hospital industry is clubby. And he wasn't a member of the club."
Awwww, poor Ricky. He wasn't a member of the hospital club and so was forced to push his company to commit Medicare fraud in order to join.
What is going to wake Florida voters up to Rick Scott's chicanery? If it isn't his shady business practices and his even more shady political tactics, I'm not sure Florida deserves better.