The Bernie Madoff Of Health Care
Did I miss the blogospheric attacks on this guy or is this the first we've heard of it?
You've probably seen the ads. Ominous voice-overs warn you about how health care reform "could put a bureaucrat in charge of your medical decisions, not you." A massive bulldozer with "government-run insurance plan" written on the side crushes your health care "choices." Canadians and Britons relay horror stories of their experiences dealing with health care in those nightmarish socialist dystopias.
The ads are the product of a multimillion-dollar ad campaign designed to derail health care reform—especially what's been dubbed the "public option," which would set up a government-run plan to compete with private insurers. The man behind this ad blitz is the person who might be Public Option Enemy No. 1: one-time hospital executive and longtime Republican donor Richard Scott.
Scott certainly is an odd spokesman for the right's health care agenda. The giant hospital company Scott led in the 1980s and 1990s, Columbia/HCA, was the subject of a seven-year federal investigation. The probe concluded with the company pleading guilty to 14 felony counts of criminal misconduct and paying $1.7 billion to settle civil charges relating to overbilling of state and federal governments—the largest settlement of its kind in American history. Scott, claiming ignorance of what was going on, was booted by his own board in 1997 and received a $10 million golden parachute with $300 million in stock options for his troubles.
Scott doesn't seem eager to remind visitors to CPR's website of his past. Not surprisingly, the "Fast Facts about Richard L. Scott" section contains no mention of the HCA fraud scandal, though it does highlight the fact that HCA "became the world's largest private health care provider" and was named "one of the 50 best performing companies of the S&P 500" by BusinessWeek. The bio does mention Scott's current venture, a company called Solantic, which "provides urgent care services, immunizations and other services at 23 locations"—including some in Wal-Mart stores—"across Florida." What it doesn't explain is that Solantic makes a lot of its money by catering to the uninsured—giving Scott a direct financial interest in preventing the expansion of health insurance to all Americans.
It seems to me that it should be somebody's job to expose this man. He's the most evil of evil CEOs. He should be a reviled and loathed character on par with the lowliest criminals at this point, and yet he's on TV lying about health care for his own profit. How can this be?
His ads are running on a loop and there should, at least, be some sort of pushback. According to the article, he's just considered a "nuisance" by public plan advocates, which I think is just bizarre. A focused national media buy with a lot of money behind it can do real damage, as the former Clinton administration folks know very well.
Eric Burns, the president of liberal media watchdog Media Matters for America, says Scott's advocacy is having an impact. "Scott is spending an enormous amount of money to influence the debate over health care reform. He's essentially cornered the market on providing false and misleading information on the health care reform debate." Some of Scott's ads focus on nightmarish tales of government-run health care in places like Canada and Britain, but President Obama hasn't proposed going to a Canadian-style single-payer system. And it is not just Media Matters that has criticized the ads—the Annenberg Center's FactCheck.org also found the group's ad "very misleading."
To disseminate its message, CPR has hired the same public relations company that handled the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. The firm, CRC Public Relations, did not respond to questions for Scott submitted by Mother Jones. But Burns says CPR's ties to CRC are no coincidence. "CPR is essentially the conservative Swift Boat operation for the health care reform debate," Burns says.
Does anyone think the Swift Boaters didn't have an impact?
And, once again, they are being aided by a lazy media who fail to acknowledge how these people operate:
The media have certainly aided Scott's efforts to dodge his history and his conflicts of interest. CNN and Fox News, among others, have interviewed Scott without questioning him about HCA or his new company's dependence on the uninsured.
Perhaps the health care debate is beyond public opinion now, but I doubt it. The right has an amazing ability to mobilize on votes, as people just found out again on the Cap and Trade legislation, and if opposition to health care is well prepared by guys like this and the vote is close, they could make a difference.
And why in the world hasn't somebody seen the value in making this jackass the face of our health care disaster? He actually is the worst of the worst. Why is he even allowed to go out in public much less make and star in advertisements against health care?
Update: This is embarrassing: Chris Hayes wrote an entire column about Scott, even calling him the Madoff of health care last March. My very bad.
Be sure to read the column for more dirty details about Scott, who really is a world class creep.