"Having Rick Scott As Your Spokesman Against Health Care Reform Is Like Having An E. Coli Bacterium As Your Spokesman Against Hand Washing."

May 12, 2009 12:52 pm ET — Melinda Warner

What about Rick Scott's past makes him qualified to speak about health care in America?  He defrauded Medicare, a government program meant to support the most vulnerable Americans, and then profited from the oppression of millions of people in countries where the populace has few, if any, civil rights.

Who Does This Guy Think He's Fooling?

The most vocal and visible opponent of health care reform is Rick Scott.  The soft-spoken executive has been appearing in ads airing nationally on Fox and CNN, as well as the Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity radio shows.

As both Media Matters Action Network and FactCheck.org have established, his ads are not filled with  factual information so much as they are filled with empty rhetoric aimed at misleading the public.

But who is this man who has taken it upon himself to develop and disseminate anti-health care reform messaging?  What are his qualifications?  Is he a doctor who has seen what American patients endure during the course of treatment?  Is he a former government official with knowledge of the minute details of the bureaucratic process of Medicare?  Has he, maybe, spent a few years in another country and so knows first hand how the American-style of health care delivery compares to other countries'? 

No.  His only experience with health care has been as an executive...an executive who has been described as "a retail-nut, not a health care wonk."

Rick Scott's greatest achievement - and failure - is the construction of the Columbia/HCA hospital system.  A talented businessman, Scott took two hospitals and ten years and created a $20 billion company that spanned the country.  Described as arrogant and aggressive, Scott made unscrupulous business decisions, including providing free furniture, company stocks, and loans that were not meant to be paid back to hospital doctors.

The New York Times reported that as the investigation began to unfold, "Mr. Scott handled the concerns by assuring the directors that the Government had nothing on the company, that there were no problems, and that there had been similar investigations in the past that had simply fizzled."

In a federal investigation that spanned seven states, government officials found that Columbia/HCA had been keeping two sets of books in order to incorrectly catalogue expenses and obtain a larger Medicare payment.  "The company increased Medicare billings by exaggerating the seriousness of the illnesses they were treating," instances of gifts and social events coded as patient care related expenses, and documents "stamped with warnings that they should not be disclosed to Medicare auditors" were all uncovered when agents raided Scott's hospitals.

Columbia/HCA ended up pleading guilty to 14 felonies, paying a $1.7 billion settlement (the largest fraud settlement in history), and kicking Scott to the curb - but not before giving him a $5.13 million severance, a $950,000/year five-year consulting contract ($4.75 million total) with Columbia/HCA, and $300 million in company stocks.

"For those who witnessed Scott's reign at Columbia, the words 'conservative' and 'patients rights' aren't the first ones that come to mind. He created a predatory company with the ethos of the raptors in 'Jurassic Park.' After subpoenas and FBI raids, the board of directors drew him a picture of the door and the corporation wound up paying the feds $1.7 billion to settle fraud charges. Given this history, you can see why he is not fond of government."

Is this a man who can be trusted to educate the public about health care?

If Scott's ethical practices as head of Columbia/HCA weren't enough, he proceeded to invest and participate in companies that profited from helping oppressive regimes control their citizens.

Since 2001, Scott has been on the Board of Directors of CyberGuard and Secure Computing.  These two companies, which eventually merged, develop and sell, among other things, firewall software. Prior to the merger with Secure Computing, CyberGuard had several Saudi Arabian clients.  And Secure Computing's Smart Filter technology has been used in both Saudi Arabia and Iran to censor Internet access.

"Middle Eastern countries pay more attention to international news, with Iran blocking the BBC's site. Saudi Arabia focuses on censoring social content like pornography and gambling, though it also restricts political sites critical of the Saudi monarchy or non-Sunni Islam sites...One of the more popular software tools is SmartFilter, a product of Secure Computing in San Jose, California, which is used by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Sudan and Tunisia." 

Censorship in Saudi Arabia is "considered among the most restrictive in the world," and the government is able to control its citizens by using American technology that they purchased from Secure Computing at a DISCOUNT

"...sophisticated software from San Jose-based Secure Computing that offers a menu of 90 categories of sites to block. A spokesman for Secure says the categories don't 'discriminate on the basis of race, religion, political persuasion, gender, sexual orientation, or any other personal characterization.'"


Secure Computing's SmartFilter software "provides a proven database of over 20 million blockable Web sites in over 91 categories."  The categories include: Art/Culture/Heritage, Education/Reference, General News, History, Politics/Opinion, and Religion/Ideology.

Iran operates one of the "world's most substantial Internet censorship regimes" by openly utilizing Secure Computing's SmartFilter program.  Secure has repeatedly said they haven't sold the technology to Iran and that Iran has apparently stolen the software.  However, according to OpenNet, the statement "does not address whether automatic updates to block lists routinely made available to SmartFilter users by Secure Computing have also been made available to Iranian ISPs."  Meaning, whether or not Iran purchased the software is irrelevant because if Secure Computing isn't actively preventing Iran from accessing their services then they are complicit in the oppression of the Iranian people.

It seems ironic that the most vocal opponent of government involvement in health care has made money giving other governments a great degree of control over their citizens.

What about Rick Scott's past makes him qualified to speak about health care in America?  He defrauded Medicare, a government program meant to support the American population that has given the most to the country, and then proceeded to profit from the oppression of millions of humans in countries where people have few, if any, civil rights. 

Rachel Maddow said it best: "Having Rick Scott as your spokesman against health care reform is like having an E. coli bacterium as your spokesman against hand washing."