Senator Rick Scott (R-FL), one of the men chosen by Donald Trump to lead the GOP’s push toward healthcare reform within the party, was once CEO of Columbia/HCA–a company which committed the worst Medicare and Medicaid fraud case the United States has ever seen.
During Scott’s seven-year tenure as CEO of Columbia/HCA, the company acquired and owned more than 340 hospitals, 135 surgery centers, and 550 home-health locations. In 1997, federal agents announced an investigation into the possibility that the company committed fraud against Medicare and Medicaid. Following the investigation, the U.S. Justice Department ruled that the company committed unprecedented fraud, calling it “the largest health-care fraud case in U.S. history.”
According to Politifact’s summary of the settlement, Columbia/HCA committed the following crimes under the leadership of Rick Scott:
- Columbia billed Medicare, Medicaid, and other federal programs for tests that were not necessary or ordered by physicians;
- The company attached false diagnosis codes to patient records to increase reimbursement to the hospitals;
- The company illegally claimed non-reimbursable marketing and advertising costs as community education; and
- Columbia billed the government for home health-care visits for patients who did not qualify to receive them.
The company ultimately pleaded guilty to 14 felonies, including three counts of conspiracy to defraud the United States. Although four executives were indicted on criminal charges, none of them ever served any prison time, including the CEO at the time of the fraud, Rick Scott.
In December 2000, the U.S. Justice Department reached a settlement with Columbia/HCA in which the company agreed to pay $840 million in criminal fines, civil damages, and penalties. In 2002, they reached a second settlement in which the company paid an additional $881 million, which brought the total of their criminal fines to $1.7 billion.
Trump’s healthcare push
In anticipation of healthcare being a major platform for most Democratic candidates running in the 2020 presidential election, Trump is attempting to get ahead of the curve by pushing healthcare reform through the Republican party. According to an Axios report, he wants to claim the title of “the party of health care” for the GOP. The three men he’s chosen to lead this effort include Senators Rick Scott, John Barrasso (R-WY), and Bill Cassidy (R-LA).
A longtime advocate for repealing the Affordable Care Act, Scott appeared on Face the Nation recently and hinted that the Republican party has a viable alternative to the ACA. However, when he was pressed for more details on the Republican healthcare plan, the only answer Scott could give host Margaret Brennan was that the healthcare replacement would protect those with pre-existing conditions.