Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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May 11, 2009

SCOTT TAKES CENTER STAGE.... I'm going to guess that in the not too distant future, conservatives are going to regret letting Rick Scott lead the way on health care.

The television ads that began airing last week feature horror stories from Canada and the United Kingdom: Patients who allegedly suffered long waits for surgeries, couldn't get the drugs they needed, or had to come to the United States for treatment.

"Before government rushes to overhaul health care, listen to those who already have government-run health care," intones Rick Scott, founder of a group called Conservatives for Patients' Rights. "Tell Congress to listen, too."

Scott, a multimillionaire investor and controversial former hospital chief executive, has become an unlikely and prominent leader of the opposition to health-care reform plans that Congress is expected to take up later this year. While disorganized Republicans and major health-care companies wait for President Obama and Democratic leaders to reveal the details of their plan before criticizing it, Scott is using $5 million of his own money and up to $15 million more from supporters to try to build resistance to any government-run program.

Scott has hired the public-relations firm behind the Swiftboat lies from 2004, and together they've already produced an ad campaign with a message that isn't even close to reality.

More important, though, is the dynamic of pitting Rick Scott against policy makers committed to reform. Mark Kleiman noted last night, "If I were a Republican, I don't think this is the ally I'd want to have out front." Given Scott's background, he's making this easy.

The effort has alarmed many Democrats and liberal health-care advocates, who are pushing back with attacks highlighting Scott's ouster as head of the Columbia/HCA health-care company amid a fraud investigation in the 1990s. The firm eventually pleaded guilty to charges that it overbilled state and federal health plans, paying a record $1.7 billion in fines.

In an ad broadcast in the Washington area and in Scott's home town of Naples, Fla., last week, a group called Health Care for America Now says of Scott: "He and his insurance-company friends make millions from the broken system we have now."

The group's national campaign manager, Richard Kirsch, said: "Those attacking reform are really looking to protect their own profits, and he's a perfect messenger for that. His history of making a fortune by destroying quality in the health-care system and ripping off the government is a great example of what's really going on."

Kirsch recently added, "He's a great symbol from our point of view. We cannot have a better first person to attack health care reform than someone who ran a company that ripped off the government of hundreds of millions of dollars."

Scott is apparently unfazed by this, and this month alone, he'll spend more than $1 million on his deceptive attack ads. Unlike 1993, insurers, hospitals and other health-care providers are not rushing out to join conservative activists in a negative p.r. campaign, in large part because they want to at least try to have some influence over how the policy is shaped.

This, in turn, makes it easier to characterize opposition to reform as a Scott-led movement. In light of his controversial background, it only helps discredit the proponents of the status quo.

Steve Benen 9:25 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (13)

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The part which bothers me is the voice of Max Baucus saying "I approve this message".

Posted by: berttheclock on May 11, 2009 at 9:43 AM | PERMALINK

Waiting for treatment as oppossed to dying a horrible death with no treatmentor sitting around an emergency room waiting for treatment for cancer as I have seen a poor friend of mine do. Bullshit! Bullshit! Bullshit! , someone needs to call it. I lived in Canada with universal and it beats any HMO contolled treatment I have had in the US.

Posted by: John R on May 11, 2009 at 10:27 AM | PERMALINK

john r beats me to the point: this guy is so insane he would have us believe that no one in america is ever denied treatment....

Posted by: howard on May 11, 2009 at 10:50 AM | PERMALINK

All the Dems need to do is show how much money those guys currently make from our crappy "health care" system. Show the millions and billions of dollars, and connect that to every tool who's in the opposition. Do it over and over and over until everyone knows who these guys are and how much they've made selling us crappy "health care". Once in awhile show some regular folks from other countries with real health care systems, and let them tell their stories and how little it really costs them.

The American people know what's going on here, and they really hate being shafted by rich people. I just hope to hell the Democrats can realize how badly they will be punished if they sell us out to their rich friends.

Posted by: Racer X on May 11, 2009 at 11:11 AM | PERMALINK

Ah yes, those terrible European and Canadian healthcare systems that produce healthier longer living populations and consistently outscore the US on almost every health index in existence.

Why would anybody want a system that makes them healthier and lets them live longer?

Damn socialists.

Posted by: thorin-1 on May 11, 2009 at 11:28 AM | PERMALINK

Former Scott employees all know him from the cost-cutting mantra he preached at Scott Medical Group: "Greet 'em, treat 'em, and street 'em." There's so much stuff on this guy, I marvel that he shows his face in public!

Posted by: HamlinBoy on May 11, 2009 at 11:31 AM | PERMALINK

Waiting for treatment as oppossed to dying a horrible death with no treatmentor sitting around an emergency room waiting for treatment for cancer as I have seen a poor friend of mine do.

This is why the scare tactics of 1993 are much less effective in 2009. Sixteen years ago, they could piously claim that everyone got decently taken care of under our HC system, and a lot of out-of-touch but insured people would believe it. Now the horror stories are too numerous: way too many people know what happens to the uninsured, the tenuously insured and even the fully insured.

Posted by: shortstop on May 11, 2009 at 11:53 AM | PERMALINK

Since the Repubs are always claiming that it's our money (our taxes) that fund the government, it would be even more powerful to say that Scott is someone who ripped off ordinary, hard-working, tax-paying Americans for hundreds of millions of dollars.

Posted by: Kevin on May 11, 2009 at 12:02 PM | PERMALINK

Nice to see another "law and order" Republican step up. I heard some CNN commentator said at UCLA this past weekend that the Republican Party is a "cult." No, it isn't. It's a Racketeer-Influenced Corrupt Organization - aka a criminal conspiracy.

Posted by: TCinLA on May 11, 2009 at 12:14 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks, TCinLA, the RepuGs have now morphed into the RICOlicans.

Posted by: berttheclock on May 11, 2009 at 12:19 PM | PERMALINK

We already have a single payer system and it works fine!Itjust doesn't cover everyone...only those of us who manage to live a long time. Medicare...although there is a need for a supplemental policy to get full coverage. Another part of single payer is what the military have...Tricare for Life...Both of these programs are run by the government...In my case I go to the physicians I want, and I get very good care. Why can't everyone have this? There are problems with Medicare and the costs are getting out of sight but I am sure smarter people than I could figure out how other countries do this and do it here and at a more reasonable cost then what we are already paying for health care.

Posted by: Joan on May 11, 2009 at 3:06 PM | PERMALINK

Rick Scott's company, Solantic, accepts Medicaid. Which is government healthcare.


Tom Scully, the former head of the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services--that is, a guy who used to actually run government-run healthcare--sits on Solantic's board of directors.


Yep, Rick Scott opposes healthcare reform on principle--because he hates government. Not because, you know, the current system makes him rich and if it costs too much and people can't afford it...hey, that's their problem!

Posted by: anon on May 11, 2009 at 7:24 PM | PERMALINK

They may have the wrong messenger, but their message is working. I have heard plenty of people parroting this nonsense about how horrible the French and Canadian systems are, insisting "yes the system is broken now, but I don't want the government trying to fix it". Don't underestimate the power of stupid.

Posted by: Krowe on May 11, 2009 at 8:48 PM | PERMALINK



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