As someone who twice ran for president, I understand the circus atmosphere that can surround a campaign, but I’m not sure I’ve seen anything like the week Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott has had. Even as Scott remains unwilling to address his true role in the HCA/Columbia hospital chain’s criminal conduct when he was its CEO, new questions have been raised about allegedly similar fraudulent practices at his most recent healthcare venture.
Being a much bigger fan of disclosure than Scott is, I’ll say up front that I am supporting his opponent, Attorney General Bill McCollum. I've known Bill for many years. He's an experienced leader with a fine record on conservative issues.
It’s going to take a lot of hard work for Florida to replace the more than 900,000 jobs the state lost during the recession. Bill’s economic plan, which will cut taxes, freeze property tax increases and remove regulatory roadblocks, will help get Florida’s economy moving again.
Rick Scott could have heard more about that economic plan had he not skipped out on the only statewide debate. Scott’s absence also deprived Florida’s voters of a golden opportunity to hear him answer the questions that continue to dog his campaign, like:
What did he know about his HCA’s criminal conduct?
Scott was CEO of HCA at a time when the company was systematically overcharging Medicare with fraudulent claims. Although Scott says he accepts responsibility for what happened, he refuses to explain what that actually means, since he also claims he never knew anything was amiss, right up to the point when the company pleaded guilty to 14 felonies in five states. How can Scott run on his record of managerial competence when he had no idea his company was engaged in widespread illegal activity? Of course, Rick Scott wasn’t done after HCA.
Since the last company Scott ran racked up unprecedented fines, shouldn’t he have been extra careful to make sure his new company didn’t repeat those mistakes?
So you’d think. However, two former doctors for Solantic, a chain of walk-in urgent care centers Scott co-founded after HCA’s board of directors dismissed him, describe a variety of unethical and fraudulent business practices in lawsuits against the company.
According to media reports, one doctor says he saw evidence of systematic overbilling, with Solantic charging Medicare for doctors’ visits when the patient had only been treated by a nurse. A former operations manager confirmed that these types of practices were “rampant” and amounted to “tens of thousands of dollars a month” in fraudulent government reimbursements.
A second doctor sued Solantic, claiming his medical license had been used without his permission in an effort to circumvent Florida’s legal safeguards for clinics. Just six days before entering the race, Scott was deposed in this case. But Scott refuses to discuss the case and will not release the videotape deposition or its 75-page transcript, calling it a “private matter.” Scott, though, voluntarily made himself a public figure when he ran for governor. Voters rightfully want to know what kind of person this wannabe governor truly is. Fraud allegations are no “private matter.”
Legally the other participants in this case are bound by confidentiality agreements that won’t let them explain what really happened. Scott can waive that restriction – but won’t even though he is a candidate for governor.
Just like Scott skipped out on the debate, he’s also refusing to meet with newspaper editorial boards, and is spending the limited time he talks with reporters stonewalling. Which leaves just one more question for Republican voters to ponder.
What else don’t they know about Rick Scott?
Steve Forbes is editor-in-chief of Forbes magazine and a former presidential candidate.
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