Last week, Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) announced that he was consolidating the number of HMO health care coverage options offered to state employees to one per county, arguing that the change could “save taxpayers $400 million in two years.” But critics and some insurance carriers are alleging that Scott is awarding contracts to campaign contributors and supporters, while punishing companies that donated to his opponents:
The new HMO provider for 38 counties in the state — including Broward, Palm Beach, and Miami-Dade — also happens to have some close ties to Gov. Rick Scott. AvMed Health Plans, which won the bid to be the sole HMO provider in the 38 counties, happened to be very friendly to Scott on the campaign trail.
State campaign contribution records don’t provide details of donors’ employment, but Health News Florida reported during Scott’s campaign for governor that he received $5,000 from people associated with AvMed. The company itself also shelled out $10,000 for Scott’s inauguration party.
On the other hand, UnitedHealthcare of Florida — which claims it provided HMO coverage to 66 of the state’s 67 counties before it was butted out of most of them — has no such record of contributions to the governor. In fact, the contribution records show that someone named David Lewis — the same name of UnitedHealthcare’s CEO for Central and North Florida — and claiming to be of the medical profession donated $500 to Alex Sink, Scott’s Democratic challenger.
This isn’t the first time Scott has been accused of pushing reforms that would enrich him or his supporters. The governor approved legislation seeking to privatize the state’s Medicaid program that would require “most of the state’s 3 million Medicaid enrollees to join private health plans after July 1, 2012.” The proposal “gives managed care companies more control over the program that’s paid for with federal and state money” and could benefit Solantic, “a chain of urgent-care clinics aimed at providing emergency services to walk-in customers” that Scott founded in 2001. Scott has also signed an executive order “requiring random drug testing of many state employees and applicants for state jobs.” It’s probably only a coincidence that Solanic offers drug testing.
All of this is even more troubling in the context of Scott’s history. Before being elected to the governorship, Scott was fired as head of Columbia/HCA just as the for-profit hospital chain pled guilty to a massive array of fraud charges — which resulted in a fraud settlement of $1.7 billion dollars, the largest in U.S history. He eventually went on lead an advocacy group, Conservatives for Patients Rights, which sought to eliminate the public option from the health care reform law. In that capacity, he argued that a government health insurance option would lead to single payer and undermine choices in coverage — the very choices he’s now limiting for state employees.