MIAMI HERALD: As he meets Republicans around Florida, Rick Scott, the new front-runner in the Florida governor’s race, has been greeted with applause — and with blunt questions about his past. At a recent GOP breakfast in Tampa, Scott was confronted — not for the first time — about his role in the scandals at Columbia/HCA, the massive healthcare company that Scott ran for 10 years. Scott resigned in 1997 amid an FBI probe that ultimately led to the company paying a record $1.7 billion in criminal and civil fines for Medicare fraud. It’s the paradox of Scott’s upstart campaign: The novice candidate has touted his stature and experience as the get-things-done CEO of what was once the nation’s largest for-profit healthcare company, while also trying to distance himself from Columbia/HCA’s notorious legacy of fraud. The strategy has worked so far. Thanks largely to a $16 million advertising blitz he financed himself, Scott — who moved to Florida seven years ago — now leads in the polls over fellow Republican Bill McCollum, the state attorney general and former congressman. MORE
SALON: For months now multimillionaire healthcare entrepreneur Rick Scott has been at the center of the aggressive campaign to derail healthcare reform in Washington, D.C. Reprising the role he played nearly 20 years ago, when as the head of a national hospital chain he helped kill Clintoncare, the former hospital-chain executive founded the group Conservatives for Patients’ Rights, raising $20 million to fight Obamacare, including $5 million of his own money. The tall, lean Scott, whose shiny bald head swivels in exasperation at the idea of government involvement in healthcare, even stars in its nationwide ad campaign comparing Democratic proposals to socialized medicine. Through this group, he has fomented the conservative strategy to disrupt town hall-style healthcare meetings around the country by shouting down elected officials. (CPR sent schedules of the meetings to so-called Tea Party activists.) He can justifiably claim some of the credit for the Senate Finance Committee’s two votes Tuesday against a public option. But in Rick Scott the right has found a frontman whose baggage threatens to overwhelm his message.
A linchpin of Scott’s 2009 campaign has been the use of anecdotes from abroad — horror stories from Britain and Canada meant to illustrate how government-controlled healthcare systems “clearly kill people” by controlling their access to care, as he told Fox’s Sean Hannity in June. He even funded a documentary titled “Faces of Government Healthcare” cataloging the horror stories of British and Canadian patients who were purportedly denied medical attention for life-threatening illnesses until it was too late.
Yet even as Scott makes the rounds of Congress and talk-show green rooms, a wrongful death lawsuit has been working its way through the Florida courts against a doctor employed by the chain of walk-in clinics Scott founded. Scott has repeatedly bragged that the 27-clinic, Florida-based company, Solantic, is an example of the free-market ingenuity needed to fix our ailing medical infrastructure. The lawsuit, however, alleges a Solantic doctor misdiagnosed a patient’s deep-vein thrombosis as a sprained ankle, leading to a pulmonary embolism and death. That same doctor was reprimanded by the state for misdiagnosing deep-vein thrombosis in a patient who died two years earlier. It’s the kind of anecdote you’d expect to hear in Scott’s documentary — except that it condemns a free-market system where profit and patient volume may take precedence over care. MORE
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