Milquetoast McCollum vs. the Hillarycare Killer

I have paid little attention to the race for Governor in Florida. But that race is getting more and more interesting. Friends of mine have been pushing me to weigh in on one side, then the other. Lately, however, a multitude of people have asked me to weigh in on this business with Rick Scott. He guest posted once here about Obamacare and I’ve defended him once from White House attacks. It did strike me as a bit odd to see him jump into the Florida Governor’s race. I got curious and started digging in.The field had been cleared for Bill McCollum, the well liked Attorney General and Clinton Impeachment Trial manager. He had not rocked the boat. He really hadn’t done much of anything except do what Attorneys General do when they want to run for higher office.But on the way to cash in on electoral victory, an upstart named Rick Scott jumped into the race. Scott has his own battle scars from the Clinton years. The then head of Columbia/HCA, Scott coordinated private health providers to fight Clintoncare and he won. More than a decade later, having left Columbia/HCA under questionable circumstances, Scott was charging again against Obamacare.Scott and I share the distinction of both being attacked from the White House press room by Robert Gibbs. Scott’s was coordinated by the Center for American Progress and other left-wing groups.That makes it, then, pretty funny that when Scott gets into the race for Governor of Florida, he is rapidly dismissed by McCollum who is running one of the most boring campaign for Governor, and then . . . Scott goes up in the polls. McCollum’s campaign reacts badly — calling Scott an “embarrassment” and a “fraud.” McCollum’s campaign acts totally unprepared for Scott and, worse, entitled to the job of Governor.Truth be told, McCollum has paid his dues. He’s been around for a while. I don’t blame him for acting badly. But here’s the thing — McCollum is a hero to a lot of conservatives because he helped impeach Bill Clinton. But Rick Scott is a conservative hero in his own right for organizing the health care establishment to fight and kill Hillarycare.What is aggravating to me is that McCollum is now attacking Scott based on what the Democrats did to punish him for opposing Hillarycare. Using left-wing Center for American Progress talking points, McCollum is dredging up a lot of stuff that looks terrible for Scott.I don’t blame the McCollum campaign. I probably would too, especially if I was caught off guard by Scott’s entry and rise and needed quick opposition research on him. But I’ve looked into the whole mess.My conclusion is pretty straight forward: the stuff on Scott looks bad, but isn’t as bad as McCollum would like and McCollum has problems of his own. I think a lot of the dirt on Rick Scott is really overblown.Here’s the gist of the major attack, though there are others: After Clintoncare failed, the Clinton Administration started getting extremely specific about the interpretation and application of over 100,000 pages of Medicare regulations.Then the Clintons started picking off, one by one, every health care provider that fought them. Rick Scott’s Columbia/HCA received one of the, if not the, largest fines in history for fraud. You can get a flavor for what was happening here.It is undisputed that Rick Scott had left Columbia/HCA before the fine happened. It is also undisputed that Rick Scott was in charge of the hospital during the period of the investigation. Here’s what else is undisputed:

  • In 1992, there were just ~600 Medicare investigations
  • By 1996, there were ~2,200 Medicare investigations (4x increase)
  • In 1997, there were over 100,000 pages of Medicare Regulations
  • By 1998, the government announced a program to assist hospitals in fraud prevention
  • The government was criticized in the media for classifying simple mistakes as “fraud.”
  • Dozens of prestigious health care institutions paid millions in fines, including Yale Hospital, Duke University Hospital, Harvard University Hospitals, University of Chicago Hospitals, Johns Hopkins, and industry giants Tenet and Columbia/HCA

Yes — Duke, Harvard, Johns Hopkins, and even Mayo Clinic all paid fines. That’s how the Clintons roll. But then, it is Columbia/HCA’s former CEO who is running for office now.Now, there’s other stuff too. ABC’s Brian Ross did a hit piece on Scott. Ex-employees attacked him. Scott left Columbia/HCA voluntarily and was never charged with wrongdoing, but the speculation has always been that he was forced out. People I’ve talked to say he wasn’t.But here is where the water gets muddied. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the regulations the Clintons put in place were so arcane and complex that reasonable people could disagree on their application and, consequently, dismissed cases filed against employees. Additionally, some of the issues being pinned on Scott originated before he entered the picture and some came from hospitals absorbed into Columbia/HCA through merger or acquisition.This is not to say that Scott has clean hands — business is business and it is sometimes dirty. But Bill McCollum has his own related problems.In my review of the matter, it appears this is largely about a collision between a free market reformer and government bureaucrats trying to maintain an antiquated entitlement system. It looks worse than it is.There is certainly stuff Bill McCollum can hit Rick Scott on. And there is stuff Rick Scott can hit McCollum on. I don’t have a dog in the fight. But I really bristle when Republicans start attacking using the Center for American Progress as the starting ground.Finally, McCollum wouldn’t be having this problem at all if his campaign weren’t so lackluster with a sense of entitlement. That’s part of the problem Charlie Crist ran into and look what happened to him.



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