FLASHBACK: Rick Scott's Columbia/HCA Was Fined $1.7 Billion For Defrauding Medicare

June 24, 2009 1:55 pm ET — Melinda Warner

At $100 Million, the newest Medicare fraud case still doesn't come close to what Rick Scott's company paid for defrauding Medicare.

On June 23, 2009, the New York Times reported:

"Officials in Miami reported breaking a Medicare fraud ring that they say spanned five states, used 29 fake storefronts and tried to steal $100 million from Medicare and Medicare Advantage. Eight defendants were charged in the elaborate scam that the authorities say billed Medicare for bogus H.I.V. and cancer infusion drugs using storefronts in Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina and South Carolina, the authorities said. Two of the defendants and about $30 million are still missing."

Interesting, disgusting, and, unfortunately, not the first time millions of dollars in Medicare fraud has been uncovered.

Anyone familiar with Rick Scott, Conservatives for Patients Rights (CPR), and/or the Columbia/HCA hospital system knows that $100 million is just a drop in the bucket compared to the fine Scott's Columbia/HCA paid for defrauding Medicare.

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.  Well done. It takes a special kind of person to steal money from a program that helps hardworking Americans.

It's funny (in a twisted way) that with all the arguments against health care reform based on the government's record of "waste, fraud, and abuse," that these private entities are taking such liberties with Medicare funding.

Note: When Rick Scott is asked about the fraud his company committed, he always answers that he was never charged with any crimes.  Correct.  But to try to convince Americans that he was unaware of his company's activity is a stretch.  That's like a coach trying to claim ignorance about which plays his team runs on the field.

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