HCA/ Columbia’s Rick Scott – the Next Governor of Florida?

When I posted about Rick Scott in March of 2009,  I was surprised that he had survived the fall of HCA-Columbia to become a major figure in the debate over health care reform. HCA-Columbia was a for-profit hospital chain that got into of trouble while he served as its CEO. First, came the FBI raid in seven states A few days later, the Board of Directors ousted Scott.  Ultimately the company pled guilty to no fewer than 14 felonies and paid a total of $1.7 billion in criminal and civil fines. It was the biggest Medicare fraud case in U.S. history.

Scott was never charged with wrong-doing—perhaps he knew too much.

I lost track of Scott after I wrote about him in Money-Driven Medicine  (2006).  But last year, he surfaced, running a multimillion-dollar campaign for a group that called itself “Conservatives for Patients’ Rights.” Its goal was to kill health care reform. Scott had seeded the effort with $5 million of his own cash.

One might think that the HCA debacle would have undermined  Scott’s credibility as a health care leader. One would be wrong.

In 2009, I was startled to find Scott back in the news. Now I’m thunder-struck: Rick Scott is a Republican candidate for governor in Florida.  And he is considered a viable contender. As Roy Poses puts it on Health Care Renewal: “This one fits into the 'you just can't make this stuff up' category." 

Poses fleshes out Scott’s story. He cites a book by John Schilling, a Medicare reimbursement supervisor in Fort Myers who blew the whistle on HCA. Schiller later wrote that: “Joe Ford, the FBI agent who led the Columbia/HCA investigation and then took on corporate fraud at Enron, retired from the bureau and lives near San Francisco. He declined to comment for this story, but was quoted in a 2008 book by Schilling (Undercover: How I Went from Company Man to FBI Spy – and Exposed the Worst Healthcare Fraud in U.S. History.) saying that his biggest regret in the Columbia/HCA case was not charging corporate executives.

“'After Columbia/HCA, I realized people, individual corporate officers, had to be held accountable for the actions of their companies,' Ford said . 'Instead of just giving us [the government] money, people need to go to jail,' he added.  'I learn from my mistakes, and this was my first big one.'”

Poses, who is without question, the premiere blogger on health care fraud, has long argued that fines are not enough. If we want to deter crime, management at hospitals, drug-makers, device-makers and insurers –as well as rogue doctors—should  know that they will face prison terms.

5 thoughts on “HCA/ Columbia’s Rick Scott – the Next Governor of Florida?

  1. I have been for prison terms for years.
    Another professional accomplished journalist who supports prison terms is former New York Times writer Melody Petersen
    (I’m NOT for the Chinese approach which is execution)
    Dr.Rick Lippin
    Southampton, Pa

  2. Chris & Rick-
    Yes, health care companies, like most ocmpanies in the U.S.,view the cost of lawsuits and injured customers as “part of the cost of doing business.”
    They do cost/benefit analysis on this sort of thing. I’ve reported on internal memos where financial analysts within the corporation explain the analysis.
    Rick– I’m not for lopping off heads either. (OR hanging people).
    But the threat of prison time would be a real deterrent for top executives. Typically, when the corporation is fined, the CEO still leaves with a multi-million dollar severance package. In the newspapers, the corporate fine might sound huge, but when you divide it by the number of shares outstanding, you realize that, from the shareholder’s view, it’s a few pennies (if that) per share.
    If shareholders are not hurt, the company’s stock will be fine. And that is what corporations care about– their share price.

  3. As a former employee of Columbia Hospitals, I was very angry with Rick Scott. When he threw his hat in the ring for Governor of Florida, I immediately stated I would not vote for that lying, cheating SOB. Well, his political views, if honest, are hard to argue against. Bill McCollum obviously does not care about the citizens of Florida. He openly stated he would not do anything about illegal aliens like the state of Arizona did. Illegals take our jobs, and our tax dollars, which pays for their medical expenses, housing, food and other benefits as well. The more I listen to Rick Scott, the more I think he is the man for the job. I must forget about Columbia hospitals, which he openly takes responsibility for. That wont get my job back but lets move forward. OK, Rick Scott you got my vote.

  4. Debbie-
    People get the government they deserve. If your hatred of illegal immigrants is such that you are willing to have a crook running Florida, you should vote as you see fit.