Governor Rick Scott and Senator Bill Nelson
Well its now less than 2 weeks until the mid-term elections and I for one will glad to see them over with. The TV is filled with nasty political ads and the robocalls keep my phone ringing – not that I bother answering. If they leave a message I simply erase it.
I have already voted and will now wait and see what develops here in Florida in the two major races – that for Governor and Senator.
The Governor’s race pits a Trump water-carrier against the first black man nominated for Governor by any party here in Florida. He is downright progressive and his victory in the primaries came as a surprise.
The right is scared to death he will win and is pulling out all the stops.
The racism is on full display; on the day he was nominated his opponent called upon Floridians not to”monkey it up.”. Neo-Nazi groups all the way in Idaho are making racist robocalls which can be heard here if you are so inclined to hear genuine Neo-Nazis:
He’s a “socialist” of course because he supports health care as a human right and is for universal healthcare. And of course he is “corrupt.” He is Mayor of Tallahassee and the FBI has been investigating “corruption” in that city for over two years – with no charges against anyone. Kind of like the October surprise leak against Hillary Clinton “reopening the e-mail investigation.”
Notwithstanding, the progressive Gillum is in a dead heat with some polls showing him with a very narrow lead pointing out that his conservative opponent voted to allow health insurance companies to deny coverage for pre-existing conditions and supported the Republican plan to “save social security and Medicare” by raising the retirement age to 70.
Hehe. Raise it to 85 and we can really save it!
But lets talk about our Senate race today between the three term incumbent Bill Nelson and his opponent Rick Scott, our outgoing Republican Governor.
Now Nelson is a perfectly decent man. I would like a more progressive guy but I can’t deny that he represents a moderate state. He probably votes with his party 90% of the time which, of course, is being held against him in ads run by Scott; as if Scott wouldn’t vote with his party 100% of the time. Nelson has also been called a “career” pol, as if Scott is not, having served two terms as our Governor and is running for the Senate. But hey, that’s politics in America today.
Scott is a very wealthy man. How did he make his money?
When the federal investigation of Rick Scott’s former hospital company became public in 1997, the board of Columbia/HCA forced him out. Scott left with $300 million in stock, a $5.1 million severance and a $950,000-per-year consulting contract for five years.
But Rick Scott “accepts responsibility” for having no idea what was going on in the company he himself founded.
In its settlement with the government, the company admitted to 14 felonies related to fraudulent billing and practices. Most happened under Scott’s leadership.
Columbia/HCA gave kickbacks to doctors so they would refer patients. Columbia/HCA made patients look sicker than they were, so Medicare would pay more. Columbia/HCA kept two sets of books.
The settlement required Columbia/HCA to pay $1.7 billion in fines, then the largest health care fraud case in the country. Scott departed a year after Time magazine named him one of America’s 25 most influential people for “transforming how American hospitals do business” through a company that “consolidates operations and imposes cost controls.”
Apparently, however, Scott’s business model depended on cheating. Despite that record, Scott narrowly won two terms as governor. With Scott in a tight race against Bill Nelson, the issue has arisen again. His new ad tries to make the governor the responsible guy on Medicare, not Nelson.
The ad continues Scott’s effort to portray Nelson – who is 76 – as old and dotty. Nelson, the ad said, is “confused” in his criticism of Scott and Columbia/HCA.
The company, the ad says, “paid every penny.” Well, sure. The settlement required payment, which came long after Scott was gone. The ad says Scott “took responsibility” without specifying how he did so.
That’s because Scott never did. He blamed the investigation on the Clinton administration, which supposedly sought revenge after Scott opposed health care reform. He claimed that Columbia/HCA was no worse than other companies. He noted that the government didn’t charge him with a crime.
And, of course, Scott claimed not to have known anything. He was a genius who deserved his megabucks severance, but he had no idea about company operations.
He went on to found another healthcare company, Solantic, specializing in emergency care. It was also investigated for insurance fraud and settled out of court in a confidential agreement.
The HCA/Columbia fraud case came down to 2 accountants at 2 different hospitals blowing the whistle for the same problem. They were instructed to keep 2 sets of books for Medicare, one set more aggressive than the other. The accountants didn’t like the ethics of that directive. They received $100 million as the finder’s fee for identifying the fraud. There were over 30 HCA whistleblowers, but the 2 accountants brought the hammer down.
The FBI investigated and found enough evidence in the various HCA/Columbia hospitals to force the $1.7 billion dollar settlement which breaks down includes:
— $225.5 million for unlawfully billing Medicare, Medicaid and TRICARE for claims generated by illegal payments to physicians for referring patients. Rick Scott signed off on several HCA/Columbia Annual Reports that specifically warned that compensating physicians in this manner could be construed as a kickback violation.
— $106 million for billing Medicare, Medicaid and TRICARE for home health visits for patients who did not qualify to receive them or for visits that were not performed, and for committing other billing violations.
— $95 million for billing to Medicare, Medicaid, TRICARE and the Federal Employees’ Health Benefits Program for lab tests that were not medically necessary or were not ordered by physicians, plus other billing violations.
— $90 million for illegally charging Medicare for non-reimbursable costs in the purchase of home health agencies owned by Olsten Corp.
— $50 million for illegally claiming non-reimbursable marketing and advertising costs disguised as community education.
— $5 million because HCA’s Lawnwood Regional Medical Center in Fort Pierce submitted false claims in Medicare cost reports by inflating treatment for indigent patients and by shifting employee salary costs to boost its reimbursement.
Ok, so the $1.7 BILLION was a settlement and an agreement to plead GUILTY for Medicare, Medicaid, Tricare and FEHB fraud, illegal kickbacks, billing for medically unnecessary treatment, billing for non-reimbursable costs and manipulating accounting practices to inflate insurance reimbursements – and Rick Scott wants us to believe he didn’t know what was going on?
I didn’t fall off of the turnip truck yesterday.
Rick Scott was also able to get an insider trading charge dismissed against him during the HCA/Columbia case in back and forth rulings between lower and appellate courts. Seems he and his wife began dumping HCA shares three weeks before the FBI raids.
Did company officials know ahead of time that the chain was headed for trouble?
A week after the hospital office raids, the New York Times published a “special report” detailing Medicare and Medicaid violations after a yearlong examination of millions of the company’s billing records.
The newspaper wrote that its reporters did not give the company an opportunity to review its data, but had provided company officials with its findings over a period of several months.
Finally Scott made $550 million on the sale of a plastics company in Michigan while he was Governor. The company was sold to a Japanese firm after Scott led a “trade delegation” to Japan and met personally with the company that eventually bought his Michigan plastics firm.
He claims he had no advance knowledge as his investments were held in a “blind trust.” which he himself had set up. The transaction is currently under investigation.
Right. If you were about to earn half a billion held in a trust which you had set up, would you know about it?
Since becoming governor, Scott has shielded his assets from public scrutiny by using a blind trust and a series of privately held partnerships in his name and the name of his wife, Ann Scott. As the wealthiest governor in Florida history with a net worth of $232 million, Scott’s latest report that his net worth rose by $83 million in a single year was notable even for him.
The assets in Scott’s trust are supposed to be blind to him, and managed by an independent trustee. He was to have no knowledge of transactions within the trust and make no decisions regarding it. But for years, the Herald/Times reported in 2014, Scott’s family bought and sold assets that mirror those held by Scott’s blind trust and had them managed by the same team of financial advisers who worked on Scott’s investments before he became governor.
So how “blind” was that trust to the governor? We don’t know but old Toritto, who spent over 40 years in the business suspects not very blind.
How does he get away with it? It’s because Republicans know he’s crooked and unethical and simply don’t care. Instead they will direct their fire at a black man who – heavens – may have accepted two tickets for a Broadway show from an undercover FBI agent posing as a potential Tallahassee developer looking for a sweet heart deal.
Rick Scott should have gone to jail.
Meanwhile it is being reported that the bomb packages mailed to prominent critics of the Emperor were mailed from – South Florida.