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Great (Rick) Scott! Crook Leads Attack on Health Reform

Debating well-trained liars can be fun, if frustrating. Last night, I took on Rick Scott, the notorious former-CEO of Columbia/HCA who is now leading the right-wing opposition to health care reform. Audio is here. In 2004, it was oily conman John O’Neill and the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, a leaky canoe full of liars who attacked Senator John Kerry’s military record.

CRC Public Relations represented O’Neill and they’re representing Scott, whose hospital company paid the largest fine in U.S. history, $1.7 billion, for defrauding American taxpayers out of hundreds of millions in phony expenses. Seems they were reimbursed for care they never provided patients. CRC’s media training is easy to summarize: Lie, Repeat Lie, Ignore truthful attacks from opponents, Lie A Little More.

CRC also represents Golden Rule Insurance Companies, an early advocate of health savings accounts, a concept that manages to find its way into Scott’s dark attack on health care reform. Back in the 90s Senator Ted Kennedy had this to say about Golden Rule:

Of course, it is true that Golden Rule Insurance Co. has been drummed out of the State of Vermont because of the way that they have exploited consumers. And it is true that Golden Rule Insurance Co., the principal company that would benefit from medical savings insurance companies, refuses to share market information with even the American Academy of Actuaries so that we could get a real reflection as to what has been the experience of that company. When asked by the American Academy to share their data, Golden Rule said, absolutely no, we will not do that, even though they have experienced extraordinary profits in this area.

Now Rick Scott is running a bunch of store-front clinics, which helps explain why he’s against health care reform. If Americans could get real health care and see real doctors, his clinics would lose their market.

One of Scott’s new enterprises is financially connected to FoxNetworks.

Scott now resides in Naples, Fla. In addition to his newfound public policy voice for Conservatives for Patient Rights, he is the founder of America’s Health Network (now a subsidiary of Fox Networks) and the chairman/CEO of Solantic, a chain of 23 freestanding urgent care facilities.

I was asked to debate Scott on Dallas’ KRLD radio last night. The host is Scott Braddock, who’s unique to news/talk radio. Braddock’s quick on his feet. He’s provocative, but fair.

I jumped Rick Scott for the obvious. He’s a crook. He helped cause the health care crisis. Turning to him for a solution would be like turning to Bernie Madoff to solve the economic crisis. Scott claims a public health care plan will ration care and put bureaucrats in charge of our health care. I said the obvious, today it’s un-accountable, un-elected, invisible private insurance accountants and pencil-pushers who are in charge of our lives, our health.

Here are some of his lies. When I said that he was just protecting his fake health clinics, he dodged it and attacked public health plans like Medicaid and Medicare.

The problem with a public plan is what it will do is eliminate all the private insurance companies. What we’ll do as taxpayers, is the government will under-price the product, they’ll over-promise and run off all the private insurance, then, then, when it’s too expensive, they’ll do exactly what’s happened in Canada, exactly what’s happened in the U.K, they’ll ration care. They say gosh, we’re not going to be able to cover that. And by the way, without any fanfare, we already passed a federal coordinating council for comparative effectiveness which is going to determine, which is going to tell us, alright, how health care should be taken care of by our doctors. These decisions have to be made by doctors and their patients. That same organization in the U.K. puts a value on your life.

And,

We have doctors every day opting out of Medicare…How many doctors won’t accept Medicaid, very few…Those plans have not worked.

I think something like 97 percent of doctors accept Medicare patients. But why would Scott let a few facts get in his way.

Scott was forced out of Columbia/HCA after the massive fraud was uncovered. Now he brags that his efforts lowered costs and improved care.

Let’s just go through it. I started health care in 1988 and health care inflation was 16 percent. I left in ’97 it was less than 1 percent. Gosh, costs came down…If you look at everything you care about as a patient, which is the issues we ought to be caring about, what is good for patients, lower costs, better outcomes better patient satisfaction. So, if you want to focus on, just say that everybody who might be against what the Democrats is bad, what we want, what everybody in this country wants, is lower costs, better care.

And sure enough, Scott said there was no health care crisis, and he quietly pitched the old private health account idea as a solution to the crisis he said doesn’t exist:

If they can’t get in the [doctor or hospital] door in this country it’s because one, the government reduces payments so doctors don’t want to take Medicare patients or Medicaid patients and there’s no, there’s not enough incentive to watch costs right now. Now as individuals become more accountable for their own health care that happens. But I don’t hear stories that, that we don’t give somebody an approved drug in this country if you have an insurance plan, you have an approved drug that we don’t give it to people, I don’t hear stories like that.

I went after John O’Neill and the Swift Boaters in 2004 because the Kerry campaign wasn’t doing enough. With MoveOn’s help, I counter-attacked with Texans for Truth, focusing on how George W. Bush had gone AWOL from the military in the 70s. The White House counter-counter attack on Dan Rather and CBS neutralized the story.

Rick Scott’s swift-boating of health care reform is drawing a much more widespread response from progressives. And it needs to. We shouldn’t forget that paid advertising works, and Scott is spending millions on advertising. We know him as a crook and a liar. It may seem like a gift to have Scott leading the charge against reform. Many believed John O’Neill and the swift boaters were ridiculous. But their attacks worked. And so will these if we take it for granted that Americans will automatically recognize a thief and a liar when they see one. We have to tell them.

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Glenn W. Smith

Glenn W. Smith

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