The Rush Limbaugh of health care hires oil industry hit man

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Gene Randall’s name popped out of the news reports about a 30-minute fake-news infomercial
savaging health reform that aired on the NBC station in Washington
yesterday. A disgraced billionaire paid for it and hired former CNN correspondent Randall, the "reporter" who also hosted a 30-minute hit piece for Chevron, exonerating its deadly pollution in the Amazon. Both videos copy the style of "60 Minutes."

Randall and his paymaster, Rick Scott, are a fine pair. Scott ran a health care empire
that gobbled up community hospitals in the 1980s, closed many of them
and turned the rest into profit centers. His Columbia-HCA chain spent
years defrauding Medicare and Medicaid of billions and paid a $1.7
billion fine. Scott "resigned" and walked away with a fortune. Now
Scott, rehabilitated by his own money, is the four-star general of
opposition to federal health reform and sole proprieter of the fake
grassroots "Conservatives for Patient Rights."

Scott must have seen what Randall did in his expensively produced 30-minute video for Chevron, meant to counter a real 60 Minutes report on
the lawsuit against Chevron in Ecuador, where predecessor company
Texaco left behind a toxic stew in the rainforest. Randall is also
producing faux-news "interviews" with Scott. These are aimed at falsely
persuading Americans that President Obama wants socialist health care
and that will maim or kill us all, and that Rick Scott knows how scottrandall.pngto do
health care right.

Here’s a clip from the infomercial (screen shot at left) with Randall doing voice-over on Scott’s glowing record as CEO of a giant health care chain.

Here’s a sampling of Scott’s real record, from the fact-check watchdogs at Media Matters:

Scott’s Columbia/HCA Pled Guilty To Defrauding Medicare And Paid A
$1.7 Billion Fine

Investigated For Medicare Fraud.
  According to the New York Times: "Officials at a number of Federal agencies began
investigating whether Columbia hospitals engaged in practices such as
fraudulently overstating their expenses to increase their compensation from
Medicare, and regularly conducting unnecessary blood tests. Last week, law
enforcement agents raided Columbia offices and hospitals in seven states,
seizing documents related to business practices." [New York Times, 7/26/97]

Evidence Collected In Columbia/HCA
Investigation Included Documents "Stamped With Warnings That They Should Not Be
Disclosed To Medicare Auditors."
  According to the New York Times: "The government began a civil investigation and
obtained critical evidence: second sets of cost reports and worksheets
maintained at HCA hospitals that contained significantly lower expenses than in
reports submitted to the government. Some of those documents were stamped with
warnings that they should not be disclosed to Medicare auditors." [New York
, 12/18/02]

Columbia/HCA "Hospitals Were
Knowingly Inflating The Numbers Reported To The Government."
The New York Times reported: "In
particular, these people said, investigators are examining accusations of
significant differences between the cost reports submitted by certain Columbia
hospitals to the Government and separate reports — known as reserve cost
reports — that were kept at hospitals. Investigators were said to believe that
these second reports, along with work sheets prepared by analysts working with
the company, provided evidence that at least some hospitals were
knowingly inflating the numbers reported to the Government in the cost report
to improperly raise total compensation
[New York Times, 7/17/97,
emphasis added]

Columbia/HCA Marked Employee
Social Function Expenses As Patient Care Costs In Reports.
According to the New York Times: "A 1993 report by the
General Accounting Office found that Hospital Corporation of America — the
company that accounts for the ‘HCA’ in Columbia’s name — improperly included
expenses for employee picnics, Christmas gifts and food for nonemployees at
social functions as expenditures related to patient care in the cost report for
its headquarters." [New York Times, 7/17/97]

Columbia/HCA Healthcare
Pled Guilty To Fraud Charges Following Seven-Year And Multi-State
  According to "Yesterday,
the nation’s largest hospital chain, known until recently as Columbia/HCA
Healthcare, pleaded guilty to a variety of fraud charges. It admitted to
bilking various government programs and agreed to pay a total of $840 million
in fines and penalties. The fraud settlement is the largest in U.S. history,
breaking the old record held by Drexel Burnham…The guilty plea follows a
seven-year federal investigation that resulted in charges being filed in five
different federal courts in Florida, Texas, Georgia and Tennessee, where HCA is
headquartered. The fraud revealed by that investigation ran deep within
HCA’s way of doing business
[, 12/15/00,
emphasis added]

One especially interesting nugget in this litany is the
next-to-last, that HCA’s employee parties and food were booked as
"patient care" expenses. HMOs and the for-profit insurance industry
insist today that simply requiring HMOs and insurers to spend a certain
percentage on patient care will fix the bloated administrative overhead
of insurance companies. As Rick Scott’s old empire shows, that’s just
an invitation to let the redefinition of "patient care" begin.

Insurance companies and other for-profit chunks of our broken health
care system are, like Rick Scott and his enabler Gene Randall, trying
to rewrite their histories and fix their images. Thanks to the
fact-checkers toiling in the archives, there’s at least a chance they
won’t get away with it.

Consumer Watchdog
Consumer Watchdog
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