Oops, he did it again; Rick Scott’s history repeats itself

For those who have followed the rise and fall of Rick Scott, former CEO of hospital chain Columbia/HCA, you may find the following to be  amusing.

If you’re  a Scott fan, you may see the allegations below as a setup. But if you thought the Columbia/HCA scandal was his misdoing, however, you may wonder how the man keeps this stuff up.

Not long ago, Scott bought a lot of media attention by running an anti-health reform organization, “Conservatives for Patients Rights,”  spending $5 million of his personal fortune to promote his message.  Now, it seems, he’s hoping to parley his renewed high profile into a role as governor of Florida.

The problem is, there’s the teeny little  issue of what’s going on at the company he runs today.  Just two weeks before the Florida primary,  his urgent care company Solantic has been accused a string of improper practices, including Medicare fraud and misuse of physician licenses.

None of the Medicare fraud allegations have been proven, and a series of physician suits against the company have been quietly settled, but these problems have cast a cloud over Scott’s gubernatorial bid nonetheless. And in reality, they should probably raise deeper questions as to Scott’s personal culpability — though to date the state hasn’t gotten involved.

The rise and fall of the Columbia empire

As many readers will know, Scott was kicked out of office CEO of Columbia/HCA hospital chain, an organization he’d helped to build with the backing of Texas billionaire and GW Bush financier Richard Rainwater. (Rainwater’s wife Darla was the one who fired him.)

Looked at one way, Scott and lieutenant David Vandewater (now CEO of Ardent Health) did a spectacular job. With  hustle, muscle and an eye for undervalued properties, they built Columbia up from two dinky hospitals in El Paso to the world’s largest health care organization. At its peak, Columbia/HCA had $20 billion in annual revenues, and more than 340 hospitals, 130 surgery centers and 550 home health locations in 38 states and two foreign countries.

The  problem is that the whole sprawling empire seems to have been rife with billing fraud.

It’s important to note that throughout the Columbia/HCA mess, Scott was never charged with a crime or deposed. Still, the meltdown happened on his watch, and after his departure the company paid out a stunning $1.7 billion fine to the feds.

By the way, Solantic CEO Karen Bowling headed up advertising at Columbia Healthcare Corporation, the company Scott built and merged with HCA. By no means do I want to suggest that she did anything wrong, either, but it is a bit curious that someone goes from marketing to a complex healthcare administration role.  (Not sure what that means — just putting it out there.)

The Solantic chapter

Anyway, regardless of who actually pulled the trigger on the Medicare and Medicaid shenanigans at Columbia/HCA, what’s up this time around? If nothing else, I don’t buy Scott’s “bad things just happen around me” line, do you?

As with Columbia/HCA, Solantic been accused of systematic, deliberate Medicare  billing fraud, a charge which was also leveled at him as leaders  of the Columbia/HCA empire.  For example, Solantic has purportedly  been in the habit of billing Medicare 100 percent of scheduled fees for unsupervised nurse practitioner visits, when rules require that it bill 85 percent.

Solantic is also accused of adding its doctors’ names to state filings and billing forms, seemingly in an effort to falsify how much physician coverage if had in place.

For example, former Solantic physician Dr. Randy Prokes, who worked there from 2004 to  2009, says he found his name on billing forms and medical records at company clinics he’d never visited and for patients he’d never treated, according to The Florida Independent.

Another plaintiff, Dr. P. Mark Glencross, filed a lawsuit in 2008 asserting that Solantic used his name to license six clinics without his knowledge.  Glencross began work  at Solantic in 2003 as chief medical officer, but left in 2004 after he allegedly discovered the misuse of his name and medical license, the Independent reports.  Solantic settled with Glencross this year, under a confidentiality agreement which keeps Glencross from chatting up the press any further.

No “Governor Scott”?

What makes all of this explosive, of course, isn’t the allegations themselves. As readers know, many healthcare organizations make it through accusations  that forms weren’t filled out properly or that Medicare was billed incorrectly.

But given Scott’s fight for the Republican gubernatorial nomination — he’s (yuck) the Tea Party’s candidate — the Solantic accusations are nasty, corrosive and who knows, might even derail his bid.  His primary opponent, State Attorney General Bill McCollum, has pulled ahead  in the polls since the allegations went public.

McCollum has been pounding on Scott to voluntarily disclose the video of the deposition he gave in the case filed against him by Dr. Glencross (one of the two MDs claiming Solantic misused their licenses and names).  Scott, to date, has refused to do so.

At this point, with so much questionable behavior at issue, one has to ask:  Would you want Rick Scott to run your healthcare organization, much less your state?    Seriously folks, would you?

P.S.  I can’t vouch for the accuracy of the content, but you might want a look at this post, which purports to offer a detailed map of Scott’s relationships over the last decade or so.  Intense stuff.

About the author

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

1 Comment

  • Scott’s been coated with Teflon to date! While investors at Columbia/HCA swallowed hard for the consequences of his myopic yet aggressive leadership, minimally he ought to be tagged with a ‘neo-criminal’, no?

    See; It’s ‘Deja Vu’ All Over Again and Rick Scott ‘Has a Plan’: http://2healthguru.wordpress.com/2009/05/29/its-deja-vu-all-over-again-and-rick-scott-has-a-plan/

    Also, my response to Matt Holt’s (tongue and cheek) piece at THCB:
    August 16, 2009
    I am shocked, shocked that Rick Scott would twist the truth

    Matt: That the neo-criminal (Columbia/HCA earned corporate convicted felon status under his leadership) Scott can serve as the poster child for ‘conservative healthcare’ is indeed an all too poignant irony of American life, not lost on some.

    That Scott misleads, and distorts the truth is merely a ‘cost of business’, and code of conduct he knows well, and regularly deploys in support of an avaricious and compulsively self serving agenda.

    Maybe he deserves another bite at the Apple? Perhaps this time his culpability will not be overlooked?

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