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.