Friday, January 7, 2011

Are Florida Voters Deaf, Dumb, Blind and Unconscious?

It's bad enough that Florida's befuddled and clueless voters elected the two clowns Allen West and Marco Rubio to congressional and senatorial positions, but to compound this infamy by electing Rick Scott to the governorship is beyond the pale. How the hell could this crook even get near a precinct far less become governor. I thought Florida disallowed voting by felons, as we beheld in the 2000 election (when over 57,000 black Duval County voters were deliberately placed on felon rolls to take away their franchise and pave the way for a Bush victory- see: Greg Palast's The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, Chapter 1). But I guess it's okay for them to run for governor. Oh wait! Scott was never convicted, in fact he got off with a ton of money when forced to vacate Columbia/HCA - the Medicare scam operation he founded.
Anyway, how is it Florida's seniors, who depend for their very lives on Medicare, aren't aware that Scott was part of a massive scandal that bilked the federal government out of over $600 million by overcharging for Medicare services? I thought that once people had free time, as is afforded them by Social Security and Medicare, they'd have much more time to follow politics and see who deserves election and who doesn't. But maybe the elderly in Florida don't even care!

For a short history: In 1987 Scott helped found the Columbia Hospital Corporation with two business partners; and this entity later merged with Hospital Corporation of America in 1989 to form Columbia/HCA and eventually became the largest private, for-profit health care company in the U.S.

Scott was forced to resign as Chief Executive of Columbia/HCA in 1997 amid a scandal over the company's business and Medicare billing practices. (And we all know Harry Truman's old saying which ought to apply to CEO's too: 'The buck stops HERE!")

Columbia/HCA admitted systematically overcharging the government by: 1) claiming marketing costs as reimbursable, 2) by striking illegal deals with home care agencies, and 3) by filing false data about use of hospital space. They also admitted fraudulently billing Medicare and other health programs by inflating the seriousness of diagnoses and to giving doctors partnerships in company hospitals as a kickback for the doctors referring patients to HCA.

They filed false cost reports, fraudulently billing Medicare for home health care workers, and paid kickbacks in the sale of home health agencies and to doctors to refer patients. In addition, they gave doctors "loans" never intending to be repaid, free rent, free office furniture, and free drugs from hospital pharmacies.

How the hell could Floridians allow a character that "managed" such an outfit to now govern their state? Hello! Anyone home?

To follow this further, on March 19, 1997, investigators from the FBI, the Internal Revenue Service and Department of Health and Human Services served search warrants at Columbia/HCA facilities in El Paso, Texas and on dozens of doctors with suspected ties to the company.

Following the raids, the Columbia/HCA board of directors forced Scott to resign as Chairman and CEO. He was paid $9.88 million in a settlement. He also left owning 10 million shares of stock worth over $350 million. Seems crime really does pay, doesn't it? If it's a white collar guy committing it!

In late 2002, HCA agreed to pay the U.S. government $631 million, plus interest, and pay $17.5 million to state Medicaid agencies, in addition to $250 million paid up to that point to resolve outstanding Medicare expense claims. In all, civil law suits cost HCA more than $2 billion to settle, by far the largest fraud settlement in US history.

Many observers believe it was the Columbia/HCA episode with Scott that triggered much more severe and strict oversight on how Medicare monies are used, applied. Even the AARP now has an informal collection of citizen whistle blowers who are fully prepared to shout 'Crime!' if they encounter any remote shady dealings.

And WHY not? Every cent pilfered through ruses like those engineered by Columbia/HCA brings Medicare closer to insolvency - and the millions who depend on it closer to economic perdition and a return to dependency on families where they once had independence and dignity.

Yet, incredibly, Rick Scott even passes the "saint hood" threshold for some bogus Florida pastors! I guess they'd approve of Adolf Hitler too! I mean, Hitler wanted all socialists (the real ones not pseudo ones) killed or sent to concentration camps along with communists.

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