...The Miami Herald's Marc Caputo and Scott Hiaasen for their excellent report in today's paper on Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott's time as head of Columbia/HCA.
Their report examines Scott's continuing denials that he had no idea his company was committing Medicare fraud.
Rick Scott has said he would have immediately stopped his former hospital company from committing Medicare fraud — if only "somebody told me something was wrong."Read the story here on the Herald's website or at the St. Petersburg Times.
But he was cautioned year after year that the financial incentives Columbia/HCA offered doctors could run afoul of a federal anti-kickback law that seeks to limit conflicts of interest in Medicare and Medicaid.
Scott says he didn't do anything wrong and wanted to fight the charges long before the hospital board settled the case without trial. "I believed we were doing the right things," he said, though Scott has acknowledged he was focused more on buying hospitals and performance than compliance.
In responding to questions about Columbia/HCA, Scott often notes how the hospital chain reduced national health care inflation and costs, and increased patient satisfaction. As for any wrongdoing, he often says "I'm responsible. … I should have hired more auditors."
It's unclear how hiring more auditors would have persuaded Scott that some of the doctor payments were not legal — especially when he either discounted or didn't receive the warnings of company attorneys and the stockholder reports.
In June, he told a Times/Herald reporter that he never met with Jerre Frazier, a company attorney, who said he warned Scott of potential compliance issues.
"I don't believe that ever happened," Scott said. "If somebody told me something was wrong, I would have done everything to fix it."
Frazier insists the meeting took place, albeit toward the end of Scott's reign at HCA.
Scott has said that he was never interviewed by the FBI, nor was he criminally charged.
Yet Scott was scheduled to be interviewed by investigators, according to media reports at the time. During a July 27, 2000, deposition in a civil lawsuit involving an unrelated contract dispute, Scott refused to answer questions by invoking his right to Fifth Amendment protection from self-incrimination 75 times — a maneuver that can be legally applied only when the witness suspects he is the target of criminal investigation.