The moral of the story: don’t elect a criminal to be governor

THE MORAL OF THE STORY: DON’T ELECT A CRIMINAL TO BE GOVERNOR…. Before inexplicably becoming the governor of the state of Florida, Republican Rick Scott’s most notable accomplishment was pulling off a major health care scam, defrauding taxpayers, and narrowly avoiding a criminal indictment.

That felonious background is of particular interest given Scott’s new scheme to “reform” Medicaid, which may make him an even wealthier man. Suzy Khimm had this rather remarkable report yesterday.

Republican governor Rick Scott’s push to privatize Medicaid in Florida is highly controversial — not least because the health care business Scott handed over to his wife when he took office could reap a major profit if the legislation becomes law.

Scott and Florida Republicans are currently trying to enact a sweeping Medicaid reform bill that would give HMOs and other private health care companies unprecedented control over the government health care program for the poor. Among the companies that stand to benefit from the bill is Solantic, a chain of urgent-care clinics aimed at providing emergency services to walk-in customers. The Florida governor founded Solantic in 2001, only a few years after he resigned as the CEO of hospital giant Columbia/HCA amid a massive Medicare fraud scandal. In January, he transferred his $62 million stake in Solantic to his wife, Ann Scott, a homemaker involved in various charitable organizations.

Florida Democrats and independent legal experts say this handover hardly absolves Scott of a major conflict of interest. As part of a federally approved pilot program that began in 2005, certain Medicaid patients in Florida were allowed to start using their Medicaid dollars at private clinics like Solantic. The Medicaid bill that Scott is now pushing would expand the pilot privatization program to the entire state of Florida, offering Solantic a huge new business opportunity.

This happens to coincide with a new Scott initiative: mandatory drug testing for state employees, state job applicants, and welfare recipients.

Care to guess what Florida company would stand to make a lot of money administering these wildly unnecessary drug tests? If you guessed, “Solantic,” you’re right.

Even at face value, the governor’s privatization scheme is itself a mess, slashing funding and inviting fraud. But even if we put merit aside, Scott is pushing a controversial measure that stands to put millions of tax dollars into his own family’s bank account, profiting from a government-run health care plan after running on a platform in opposition to government-run health care.

I also enjoyed Ezra’s take on this: “In the 1990s, [Scott] made his money off single-payer health-care programs by cheating them. Today, he’s making his money off single-payer health-care programs by running them. No matter how you look at it, it’s a step up.”