... as are GOP’s plans

Scott’s win has those in health­care weigh­ing choices

Modern Healthcare - - The Week In Healthcare - Joe Carl­son

Now that many hos­pi­tal ad­min­is­tra­tors’ pre­ferred can­di­date for Florida gover­nor was ejected from the bal­lot by change-minded pri­mary vot­ers, health­care of­fi­cials in the Sun­shine State are left with an un­usual choice: Ei­ther sup­port the long­time hos­pi­tal ex­ec­u­tive with a his­tory of run­ning a com­plex but scan­dal-racked health­care busi­ness, or back a Demo­crat.

Florida At­tor­ney Gen­eral Bill McCol­lum, the long­time Repub­li­can elected of­fi­cial who filed the first law­suit to strike down this year’s health­care re­form in­surance man­date, was knocked out of the race for gover­nor in last week’s Florida pri­mary by po­lit­i­cal up­start Rick Scott.

Scott is for­mer chair­man and CEO of Columbia/HCA Health­care Corp., the com­pany that grew through merg­ers and ac­qui­si­tions into the coun­try’s largest hos­pi­tal owner, HCA. Columbia/HCA was also the re­cip­i­ent of the coun­try’s then­largest fine for Medi­care fraud, $1.7 bil­lion, for overly “ag­gres­sive” busi­ness tac­tics un­der Scott’s watch (See ed­i­to­rial, p. 18).

Scott was never charged with wrong­do­ing and has de­nied do­ing any­thing il­le­gal with re­gard to Medi­care. Scott will face off in the Novem­ber gen­eral elec­tion against Demo­crat Alex Sink.

If cam­paign fi­nance re­ports are any in­di­ca­tion, ex­ec­u­tives at hos­pi­tals didn’t pre­fer ei­ther Sink or Scott. A dozen peo­ple with the job de­scrip­tions “hos­pi­tal ex­ec­u­tive” or “hos­pi­tal ad­min­is­tra­tor” do­nated money di­rectly to McCol­lum, while only two did for Sink and one did for Scott. Sev­eral of the McCol­lum sup­port­ers did not re­turn calls for com­ment on whom they will now sup­port.

The Florida Hos­pi­tal As­so­ci­a­tion of­fi­cially won’t take a po­si­tion in the race for sev­eral rea­sons, in­clud­ing the fact that it is spon­sor­ing a gu­ber­na­to­rial de­bate at the as­so­ci­a­tion’s an­nual meet­ing Oct. 14.

Linda Quick, pres­i­dent of the South Florida Hos­pi­tal & Health­care As­so­ci­a­tion, said Scott’s po­si­tions dur­ing the cam­paign re­flected what the health­care com­mu­nity knew about Scott’s views dur­ing his years at Columbia/HCA. “On things like reg­u­la­tion, his opin­ions were his­tor­i­cally on the dereg­u­la­tion side. I wouldn’t ex­pect them to change if he were gover­nor,” Quick said.

An­thony Degina Jr., CEO of the Uni­ver­sity of Mi­ami Hos­pi­tal, said the al­le­ga­tions lev­eled against Columbia/HCA dur­ing Scott’s ten­ure didn’t dis­suade him from sup­port­ing Scott for gover­nor. “In terms of my sup­port of his can­di­dacy, no, it did not give me pause at all,” Degina said. “There are com­plex is­sues and lots of sides to the story.” Degina was once a CEO at Columbia/HCA and HCA hos­pi­tals, and he had some per­sonal in­ter­ac­tion with Scott.

Other donors to the Scott cam­paign in­cluded $500 each from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida, Jack­sonville, and HealthGrades, Golden, Colo.

Scott, above, will run against Demo­crat Alex Sink in Novem­ber.

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