Thursday :: Jul 9, 2009

Rick Scott Literally Swift Boating The Health Care Debate


by Turkana

As she so often does, digby makes a great catch. The health care debate is being partially highjacked by a major right wing donor, who also just happens to be a former health care industry executive. And the corporate media are helping him along.

The article comes from Mother Jones:

You've probably seen the ads. Ominous voice-overs warn you about how health care reform "could put a bureaucrat in charge of your medical decisions, not you." A massive bulldozer with "government-run insurance plan" written on the side crushes your health care "choices." Canadians and Britons relay horror stories of their experiences dealing with health care in those nightmarish socialist dystopias.

The ads are the product of a multimillion-dollar ad campaign designed to derail health care reform—especially what's been dubbed the "public option," which would set up a government-run plan to compete with private insurers. The man behind this ad blitz is the person who might be Public Option Enemy No. 1: one-time hospital executive and longtime Republican donor Richard Scott.

Back in March, Scott spent $5 million of his own money to set up a nonprofit called Conservatives for Patients' Rights. The group aims to be the command center for the right's fight against Democratic reform efforts. With the major interest groups—including hospital companies, pharmaceutical companies, and doctors—that have opposed reform in the past holding their fire this year in order to have a seat at the legislative table, Scott's group has filled the anti-reform void. According to an estimate reported by the Associated Press, around $15 million has already been spent on ads favoring the Democrats' plan, and $4 million has been spent to oppose it. Much of that $4 million has come from Scott and CPR, and he's claimed his group will spend as much as $20 million.

Of course, as the article points out, and as is true "Harry and Louise" style, Scott's group doesn't say it opposes health care reform. Of course not. It does want reform, it's just a matter of the details. Of course, when you get into the details of the details, it's really about derailing real reform. And the ad is, according to Media Matters, simply based on lies.

Rep. Jerry Nadler, a New York Democrat, was more blunt: "Rick Scott pushing health care reform is like Bernie Madoff attempting to regulate the financial industry," he told Mother Jones.

Literally. Again from Media Matters:

Rick Scott's company, Columbia/HCA, paid a $1.7 billion settlement after pleading guilty to several charges. The fraud was so rampant under Scott's leadership that some documents were brazenly "stamped with warnings that they should not be disclosed to Medicare auditors," "some hospitals were knowingly inflating the numbers reported to the Government in the cost report to improperly raise total compensation," and they "improperly included expenses for employee picnics, Christmas gifts and food for nonemployees at social functions as expenditures related to patient care in the cost report for its headquarters."

Columbia/HCA pled guilty to "overcharging the government," "exaggerating the seriousness of the illnesses" of patients, and giving doctors kickbacks in order to receive higher Medicare payments.

The Mother Jones article says that was the largest such settlement in U.S. history. And it gets worse. Because comparing Scott's outfit to the Swift Boaters also is literally accurate. He's using the same PR firm, CRC Public Relations. And Sam Stein has more on Scott, himself:

A report released on Tuesday calls out former hospital CEO Rick Scott for sitting on the board of a company used by Saudi Arabia and Iran to suppress Internet access. In recent months, Scott has become the most high-profile conservative activist working to oppose the health care reforms backed by the Obama administration.

The newly formed organization Media Matters Action Network released a document on Tuesday detailing Scott's links to the Internet monitoring company Secure Computing, and the use of that company's software by some of the world's most oppressive regimes.

The findings add another politically provocative element to the battle over health care reform. While officials with Secure Computing did not immediately return requests for information on Scott's work or compensation, the optics could be problematic. Scott has pledged to spend more than $5 million of his own money to build resistance to greater government involvement in the health care industry. Where that money comes from changes the perception of his opposition.

Got that? Scott makes money off a company that helps Saudi Arabia and Iran repress their people, then uses his money to kill health care reform. Nice.

And the Mother Jones article asks one other pertinent question: why is Scott so often used on television news networks, without their pointing out his obvious conflicts of interest? Of course, the question answers itself.

As digby concludes:

Perhaps the health care debate is beyond public opinion now, but I doubt it. The right has an amazing ability to mobilize on votes, as people just found out again on the Cap and Trade legislation, and if opposition to health care is well prepared by guys like this and the vote is close, they could make a difference.

And why in the world hasn't somebody seen the value in making this jackass the face of our health care disaster? He actually is the worst of the worst. Why is he even allowed to go out in public much less make and star in advertisements against health care?

Why, indeed...

Turkana :: 10:22 AM :: Comments (4) :: Digg It!