Rep. Paul Ryan Praises Medicare Fraudster Rick Scott As "Health Care Expert"

June 20, 2011 1:17 pm ET — Matt Finkelstein

Rep. Paul Ryan

To hear Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) tell it, the GOP plan to turn Medicare into a voucher system will actually "save" the program, and anyone who says otherwise is cynically trying to "scare seniors." That's a tough sell, particularly given Ryan's own record of distorting the Affordable Care Act's impact on seniors, but Ryan is plowing forward with his public relations campaign nonetheless.

Today, Ryan guest-hosted CNBC's Squawk Box, giving him two hours to make his case to the show's early-morning audience. Ryan also got some assistance in the form of a friendly interview with Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL), whom the congressman praised as a "health care expert."

RYAN: Hey Rick, you're a private-sector health care expert. You know this stuff inside and out. ...

RYAN: There's a belief in Washington that you can just delegate to a panel of 15 experts and they can figure all this out, they can make all the decisions in Washington. We've been down this path so many times. So, you know, Rick, you come from the private sector in health care, you've shown how you can get at the root cause of health inflation. And the consumer— make the consumer powerful.

Although the interaction focused mainly on disastrous Medicaid block grant proposals, Ryan's admiration for Scott's health care record is noteworthy in relation to the ongoing Medicare controversy. If Scott is an "expert" in anything, it's how to make a profit on the backs of American seniors.

In 1997, Scott was forced out of his company, Columbia/HCA, while it was under investigation for committing Medicare fraud. The company ultimately pled guilty to 14 felonies and paid $1.7 billion in fines, which was "by far the largest amount ever secured by federal prosecutors in a health care fraud case." Scott received $9.9 million in severance and around $300 million in company stock.

Scott used to deny any wrongdoing in the scandal, but he half-heartedly accepted responsibility during last year's campaign, suggesting that his company didn't understand the regulations it violated.  

Watch the interview below.

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