Gov. Rick Scott?
The healthcare industry has been good To Rick Scott.
The former head of Columbia /HCA, Rick Scott hopes to become the next governor of Florida.
Scott is leading Attorney General Bill McCollum in a poll released today, by a margin of 44 to 31 percent.
The Quinnipiac University poll also finds that Scott leads Democrat, Alex Sink, the state’s Chief Financial Officer.
Who is Rick Scott?
For one thing he is a millionaire (some say billionaire) thanks to his health care companies. He has never held public office and is hoping to cash in on his record as a businessman.
But that’s the problem too.
In his television ads, Scott, 57, addresses the controversial past of Columbia/HCA. When he was chief executive, the hospital chain committed among the largest Medicare and Medicaid fraud in history and paid $1.7 billion in fines after Scott left.
Scott looks at the camera in one of his $12 million worth of broadcast ads and admits to his corporate past, which is being brought up by his opposition, McCollum.
But he tries to turn a negative into a positive, telling viewers that he addressed the situation and took charge. “I accept responsibility for what happened on my watch,” he says.
His next venture was a statewide chain of walk-in clinics, Solantic. But that too was controversial. The first medical director David Yarin, later blew the whistle on the company, saying Scott told him not to hire the overweight, people of Middle Eastern descent or a Hispanic male nurse with an accent.
Yarin said speaking about Scott, “He said in a meeting with all the other staff that the people we hire for our centers have to be mainstream American,” reports the Florida Independent. Yarin sued the company and reportedly settled in 2002. Scott has called Yarin a disgruntled ex-employee. Five Solantic managers later filed suit against Scott and the company saying they too were asked to enforce Solantic’s discriminatory practices.
More background from Salon- Scott’s father was a truck driver and Scott went to law school at Southern Methodist University in Dallas then worked for a large firm representing hospitals in mergers and acquisitions. Seeing the profit potential in health care, he partnered with Richard Rainwater, a friend and investor for the Bush family, in buying two hospitals in Texas, the beginning of Columbia Healthcare Corp.
Journalist Maggie Mahar writes about Scott and profit-driven healthcare in her book, “Money over Medicine.”
"Mothers may tell their children that money can't buy happiness, but what these results show is that money can buy enough television ads to make political neophytes serious contenders for major political office,'' said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute tells Health News Florida.
McCollum has spent more than $800,000 on advertising, and his Alliance for America’s Future has spent nearly $2 million attacking Scott as a fraud.
The poll also found that 56 percent of 1,133 respondents did not like the federal health reform, and that is the one thing that both Scott and McCollum hope to take to the bank. Salon reports that Scott raised $20 million to fight Obamacare with his group, Conservatives for Patients’ Rights.
The Republican primary for governor is scheduled for August 24. #