As of last week, Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) was still demanding the federal government send his state public money to help cover health care costs, but only if that money wasn’t connected to the Affordable Care Act. The Republican governor even filed a foolish lawsuit to require the Obama administration to give Florida federal funds for a program that will soon no longer exist.
Yesterday, Scott sat down with Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell – technically, the official the governor sued last week – ostensibly in the hopes of working out some kind of deal. After their discussion, the GOP governor told reporters the two had a “good conversation … but we don’t have a resolution.”
But in the Sunshine State, this fiasco is only part of a larger puzzle. The Orlando Sentinel reported Tuesday on Rick Scott’s new effort to “examine hospital finances.”
…Scott issued an executive order setting up the Commission on Healthcare and Hospital Funding to look at the finances, political contributions, lobbying efforts and quality and cost of care provided at hospitals funded in part by taxpayer money. […]The commission, which will also look at hospital executives’ compensation and the cost of health-care services, has local hospitals gearing up for the inquiry. They want the commission to take into account the care they provide that goes unpaid by patients who can’t afford it.
It’s a curious move for a couple of important reasons. The first is the oddity of the political circumstances – state politics in Florida has been rocked by a bitter dispute over Medicaid expansion through the ACA, a policy the governor opposed, then supported, then opposed again. Florida hospitals, not surprisingly, support expansion in order to improve their own finances, which in this case means pitting the facilities against the governor’s office.
It’s against this backdrop that Scott decides, out of the blue, that he wants an entire commission to scrutinize his rivals’ finances and political operations.
And then there’s that other angle, as flagged by the Tampa Bay Times.
Democrats were quick to bring up the fact that [the governor] resigned his job as the CEO of a for-profit hospital chain in 1997 after federal agents went public with an investigation into the company. Columbia/HCA later agreed to pay a record $1.7 billion in government penalties and fines.“Now, Rick Scott – who resigned from the health care company he founded amid federal fraud investigations – has decided his time would be well spent auditing the books of Florida hospitals,” Florida Democratic Party Chair Allison Tant said in a statement. “How does that help resolve the gridlock in the legislature? The only hospital management advice Rick Scott knows how to offer is training executives how to fleece the federal government for billions.”
That’s pretty rough rhetoric, though it has the benefit of being largely true. Before becoming governor, Scott’s most notable role in public affairs was his involvement in a massive fraud scandal involving hospitals he helped run.
Now he’s interested in scrutinizing hospital finances, just to see what his handpicked commission members turn up?