Once lauded for building Columbia/HCA into the largest health care company in the world, Mr. Scott was ousted by his own board of directors in 1997 amid the nation’s biggest health care fraud scandal. The company’s guilty plea and payment of $1.7 billion to settle charges including the overbilling of state and federal health programs was taken as a repudiation of Mr. Scott’s relentless bottom-line approach.
“He hopes people don’t Google his name,” said John E. Hartwig, a former deputy inspector general at the Department of Health and Human Services, one of various state and federal agencies that investigated Columbia/HCA when Mr. Scott was its chief executive.
Conservative health care activists, while glad to have a potential ally willing to spend $5 million out of his own pocket, are not fully embracing Mr. Scott, noting that he is entering a changed landscape in which some Republicans and industry groups that opposed President Bill Clinton’s health care proposals now view some form of change as necessary and inevitable.
“At the end of the day, they may come up with something we like,” said John C. Goodman, a leading conservative health care policy expert. “We shouldn’t just assume that this is something horrible — if this is something horrible, we will be against it.”
“There is no Obama plan that’s been made public yet, so what’s the point of running ads?” Mr. Goodman added. “I don’t see that you gain anything except attention for Rick Scott.”
Some former allies are more hostile toward Mr. Scott, painting him as counterproductive to their efforts for compromise.
“I just don’t understand why he would be a messenger people would listen to,” said Charles N. Kahn III, who was a senior executive with the insurance industry group that ran the “Harry & Louise” advertisements credited with helping to kill the Clinton plan 15 years ago but who is working for a deal now. “I don’t think people are waiting to hear from him.”
Mr. Kahn, a Republican, is now the head of the Federation of American Hospitals, a private-hospitals group.
Even the opposition to health care reform thinks Rick Scott doesn't deserve the airtime he buys! And this is coming from a movement that puts out (maybe) no-degree Sally Pipes and conflict-of-interest Betsy McCaughey as "experts" on health care reform.
Not all conservatives have gotten the message. Scott has had meetings with Rep. Burgess from Texas and he was invited by Republicans to testify before Congress late last month, where he repeated the old socialized medicine lie:
Conversely, while moving towards a single payer or universal health care system could guarantee access to all, it would do so at a terrible cost. It would strip patients of the power to make their own medical decisions, put government bureaucrats in charge of rationing care and force patients onto long waiting lists for the care they can receive.
The media goes down this road, too, as Karl Frisch from Media Matters explains in his latest column:
Turn on cable news or talk radio and you're likely to hear a conservative host, right-wing pundit, or Republican elected official accuse President Obama and the Democratic Congress of just about every "-ism" in the book.
Socialism, Marxism, Leninism, fascism, Nazism, Stalinism, Maoism — few, if any, "-isms" have been spared as the right escalates its daily verbal assault on the progressive agenda.
In fact, according to a search of broadcasts on TVEyes.com, since Obama's inauguration in January, these terms and others like them have been thrown around on cable news at least 3,000 times. Add conservative talk radio and the nation's newspaper op-ed pages to the mix and watch that figure grow like a well-watered, limited edition Bill O'Reilly Chia Pet.
Of course, as Frisch points out, President Obama's health care plan isn't anything close to socialized medicine:
Simply put, health-care reform that leaves the for-profit health insurance industry intact, reform that leaves doctors and other medical professionals free to offer their services outside of a government system, reform that leaves citizens free to choose a private health-care plan over a government plan simply can't be described honestly as "socialized medicine."
As the Urban Institute put it last year, "socialized medicine involves government financing and direct provision of health care services," and therefore, progressive health-care reform proposals do not "fit this description."
The truth, of course, isn't really going to stop conservatives from lying. It never has and never will. But, there is hope this time around. At a basic level, the fact that 61% of Americans want a choice of a public or private health insurance plan means America is behind President Obama and doesn't believe we're going to end up with socialized medicine.
The question is, will Congress listen to the American people?
Once again, there are signs of hope. Jane Hamsher at Firedoglake reports that a group of progressive Senators is organizing to ensure America has that choice:
Last week I heard from a reliable source that a group of progressive Senators will band together to demand that provisions for a public plan be included in any health care bill. Evidently they are tired of Evan Bayh and his corporatists controlling the terms of the debate, or that the opposition of Baucus and Grassley on the Finance Committee should determine the public plan's fate.
This is a huge development, and exactly what we need to see if we are to get real health care reform, with a choice of a public health insurance plan, passed through Congress. Bayh and the "centrists" and the opposition like Chuck Grassley need to know not only that the American people want what President Obama proposed during the campaign, but that their colleagues in Congress want it, too, and are working to ensure it happens.