With new allegations of Medicare/TriCare fraud hanging over his head, is it time to ask whether Rick Scott is really running for governor of Florida as a way to protect himself from prosecution?
From the Naples Daily News, newly unearthed allegations that could put Scott in legal jeopardy, and place him in a conflict of interest if he were to become Florida’s governor:
NAPLES — The state Department of Health won’t discuss its handling of a health-care fraud complaint against Solantic, a chain of walk-in centers co-founded by gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott in 2001.
Solantic currently operates about 30 walk-in centers, mostly around Jacksonville and Orlando.
“We can’t acknowledge or deny the existence of a complaint,” said Eulinda Smith, a state health department spokeswoman.
However, a letter obtained by the Daily News under Florida’s public records law shows the state Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) sent the complaint to the state health department Aug. 13, a week after receiving it. Various media outlets reported earlier that it was referred to federal officials.
“The complaint contains allegations raising standard of care issues that more appropriately fall under the jurisdiction of the Department of Health,” Jerome Worley, chief of investigations for the Office of Inspector General with AHCA, wrote in a letter to the state Department of Health. “Please handle the complaint as you deem appropriate.”
The complaint was sent to AHCA anonymously but said the allegations were provided by Dr. Randy Prokes, a former medical director of a Solantic center in Jacksonville. The one-page form lists 10 allegations of wrongdoing and there are 26 pages of abbreviated notes about questionable practices at clinics with names of former or current Solantic employees as potential sources for investigators.
If an investigation was opened and continues beyond Tuesday’s election with the potential that Scott is elected governor, any investigation could make for a conflict for the health department’s secretary, who is appointed by the governor.
When asked while campaigning Thursday how he would handle that situation, Scott said he wouldn’t get involved except for making the appointment of the head of the health department.
“I’d recuse myself from any involvement,” he said. “I’m going to appoint the head of the position, but I’m not going to be involved in any decisions.” …
Allegations of potential fraud at Solantic brought back to the campaign forefront Scott’s past as chief executive officer of the former Columbia/HCA, which paid a record $1.7 billion in the late 1990s to settle Medicare fraud fines. Scott denied knowledge of the fraud and was never charged.
With respect to the Solantic complaint, AHCA decided not to conduct a probe because the allegations focus on possible fraud with Medicare and not with state-run Medicaid. As a result, AHCA officials forwarded the complaint to federal Medicare authorities on the same day they sent it to the state health department.
Similar to state investigative agencies, the Office of the Inspector General with the U.S. Health and Human Services “can neither confirm nor deny the receipt of a complaint,” according to Donald White, spokesman for that federal agency.
The state health department has jurisdiction over possible standard of care infractions by physicians and other state-licensed medical professionals; AHCA licenses medical facilities and investigates potential regulatory violations.
The complaint alleges a number of potential wrongdoings at Solantic, including overbilling of Medicaid, Medicare, private insurance and TriCare, which is the government health plan for veterans. It says insurers were charged physician rates when patients were treated by nurse practitioners, that unnecessary tests were ordered and billed, and that outdated screenings were performed. Another allegation is that unnecessary prescriptions were written so patients purchased medications from internal pharmacies.
Another claim is that a physician’s medical license was misused by Solantic to apply for a clinic license without the physician’s knowledge.
Read the rest here. Well worth it. This is serious business, folks. If this guy were to become governor, how would his appointee at the Dept of Health investigate the person who appointed him? If the agency head dismissed the case, which would benefit Scott and could theoretically impact a federal probe, it would look shady. If they pressed forward, they’d have to face the Smoke Monster. And Florida would be caught in the legal psychodrama at a time when the governor should be focusing on rebuilding the state’s economy (or in Scott’s case, drug testing the poor and laying off state employees.)
The fact that Scott clearly knows what’s in those depositions he won’t release to the public; and the fact that he is potentially the target of yet another Medicare/Tricare fraud case with the company he currently owns, really makes you wonder if this guy is spending $55 million of his own ill-gotten money — not because he wants to be governor of Florida — but to buy his way out of prosecution.