Just what was Rick Scott’s role in the largest ripoff of taxpayers in the history of Medicare and Medicaid?
According to an investigative report published in Sunday’s Miami Herald, Scott will have a difficult time distancing himself from the company he once ran and its “notorious legacy of fraud.”
Scott had founded the healthcare giant Columbia/HCA and was the CEO in the mid-1990s when the FBI launched a massive probe of its billing practices.
“Scott resigned in 1997 amid an FBI probe that ultimately led to the company paying a record $1.7 billion in criminal and civil fines for Medicare fraud,” the Herald stated.
Scott wouldn’t comment to the Herald on the allegations, but did say in a statement that he was never charged with a crime and never questioned by the FBI.
Here are the key points made in the article:
- "However, federal investigators found that Scott took part in business practices at Columbia/HCA that were later found to be illegal -- specifically, that Scott and other executives offered financial incentives to doctors in exchange for patient referrals, in violation of federal law, according to lawsuits the Justice Department filed against the company in 2001.”
- "The doctor payments were among 10 different kinds of fraud identified by the Justice Department in its 10-year probe of the company, records show. Three years after Scott left Columbia/HCA, the company admitted wrongdoing, pleading guilty to 14 felonies -- most committed during Scott's tenure -- in addition to paying two sets of fines totaling $1.7 billion.”
- "The key question for Scott is whether he can persuade voters that he deserves to be chief executive of Florida while at the same time insisting that he knew nothing about the greatest Medicare fraud in American history as it happened under his nose."
- "Chief among the critics: some 30 whistleblowers -- company employees, doctors and contractors -- who first exposed the frauds in lawsuits filed against Columbia/HCA between 1993 and 1997. Some employees said they were fired or punished for raising their concerns with supervisors; one said she was instructed by her boss to erase records from her computer at a Miami Beach hospital, court records show. The whistleblowers and their lawsuits helped guide the Justice Department's decade-long probe of the company.”
- "The company also admitted making illegal kickbacks to doctors in exchange for patient referrals -- a scheme that federal investigators traced back to the very first hospitals purchased under Scott in El Paso, court records show.”
- "From Columbia's beginning, Scott and his partners sought to increase revenue at their hospitals by seeking patient referrals from area physicians, the Justice Department said. To win over doctors, they offered sweeteners, from lavish trips -- fishing in Costa Rica, dove hunting in Mexico -- to free office rent, discounted pharmaceuticals, and bogus consulting jobs, according to investigators.”
- In addition to the doctor payments, whistleblowers inside and outside the company -- from Miami to remote Montana -- also questioned Columbia/HCA's methods of billing Medicare. The questions eventually led to a federal investigation -- and $900 million in fines.
About $400 million of the fines came from cheating on direct patient billing -- called upcoding -- in which Columbia/HCA filed claims stating that patients were sicker than they really were.
Read the entire story, "Rick Scott and his role in Columbia/HCA" at The Miami Herald.
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