When I last encountered former Columbia/HCA CEO Rick Scott in April 2009, he was making the rounds on Capitol Hill, promoting both a documentary movie he said he had in the works and presenting himself as head of the Conservatives for Patient Rights, a group organized largely to derail health reform. It appeared to be part of a resurrection strategy, one designed to get people to forget that he’d headed up a company that was forced to pay $1.7 billion to settle charges it defrauded Medicare.
And, he apparently was laying the groundwork for his first foray into politics: a run at the Florida governorship.
Guess at least some of the Florida electorate was willing to forgive that mid-1990s transgression. Last night, Mr. Scott won the Republican gubernatorial primary. He defeated Bill McCollum, a former U.S. House member and the current Florida attorney general. Mr. McCollum had repeatedly brought up Mr. Scott’s tarnished past. And yet, Mr. Scott, prevailed, reportedly spending $50 million on the race.
Here’s his video pitch on Election Day. It’s a perfect example of his rapid-fire, get-the-job done approach — one that built him a large fortune by the time in he was in his mid-30s, but also earned him a reputation as a ruthless capitalist who put profits above all else. That specter was raised again in a suit against his current health venture, Solantic, that was settled just days before Mr. Scott announced his candidacy and became fodder throughout the primary season (see story here).
Will he be able to convince enough Florida residents that he is the man for the job? And what will it mean for health care in a state that grapples with both a large and ever-aging senior population and a growing number of uninsured, partly driven by the continuing influx of immigrants?
Mr. Scott has been villified in the long-ago and not-so-distant past. Florida Democrats are already relishing unearthing more about his demonstrated and alleged transgressions, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
— Alicia Ault (on Twitter @aliciaault)