... as are GOP’s plans
Scott’s win has those in healthcare weighing choices
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.