Florida's Rick Scott Casts Himself As Medicare Defender

03/03/2014 12:20 pm ET | Updated Mar 03, 2014
  • Andrew Perez National Political Reporter for International Business Times

Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) last week made protecting Medicare for seniors a top focus of his reelection campaign, despite having served as CEO of the hospital chain that paid the largest Medicare fraud settlement in history.

In a recent campaign web ad and during an interview with Fox News, Scott accused President Barack Obama of taking funds from Medicare to pay for the Affordable Care Act. Scott has taken issue specifically with the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services' recent announcement of changes to Medicare Advantage's reimbursement rates to private insurers. Scott's campaign has attacked the cuts, arguing that they'd hurt seniors by restricting access to doctors and preventative care.

"The administration is not thinking about the families in Florida," Scott told Fox News on Tuesday. "They're not thinking about our citizens that paid into Medicare when they raid Medicare to pay for Obamacare."

The Florida Democratic Party pounced on Scott's comments, noting that Scott was the CEO of Columbia/HCA, which paid $1.7 billion in fines to settle charges of Medicare fraud. The campaign of former Florida governor and Democratic candidate Charlie Crist emailed supporters, "Clearly, Scott prefers to raid Medicare the old fashioned way: Insurance fraud."

Scott's history at Columbia/HCA was a major topic during his first bid for governor, when he narrowly defeated Democrat Alex Sink, the former chief financial officer for the state. In that race, Scott touted his business experience as the leader of a major health care company, while claiming that he was unaware of and not involved in any of the fraud that occurred while he was running the company.

The Miami Herald disputed Scott's story in 2010: "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."

Scott's campaign hit back at Crist in an email to The Huffington Post on Saturday.

"Right now, Medicare benefits are being cut for seniors in Florida because of Obamacare," wrote spokesman Greg Blair. "Sadly, Charlie Crist is a strong supporter of that law -- he's all in on Obamacare and the harm it's causing for our senior citizens. With patients losing their doctors, paying more for services, and seeing fewer plans to choose from, Charlie Crist owes an explanation to Florida seniors."

Crist, who was elected governor as a Republican in 2006 and changed his party affiliation to independent for his 2010 Senate bid, said that year he would have voted against the Affordable Care Act because of the Medicare Advantage provisions. Now running as a Democrat to reclaim his job, Crist supports the health care law.

Blair added in his email, "The truth is that the Obama administration is raiding Medicare right now, with Charlie Crist's support, and seniors are suffering because of it."

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