Before Rick Scott was Florida’s governor, he oversaw the largest fleecing of Medicare in history. And now, as he asks Florida voters to elect him to oversee Medicare itself, he is still profiting off of cheating the government’s health-care program for seniors.
According to Scott’s financial disclosure, he and his wife, Ann, were recently heavily invested in Abbott Laboratories, a drugmaker and medical-device manufacturer which in the past decade has paid more than $1 billion in fines for defrauding Medicare and other federal programs.
Since the start of 2017, the Scotts earned between $80,003 and $200,000 from their investments in Abbott. While they sold off some of their shares, they still owned between $51,002 and $115,000 in Abbott stock as of late July, when the disclosure was filed.
In 2012, Abbott pleaded guilty to marketing a drug for off-label purposes, which “caused false claims to be submitted to government health care programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, TRICARE” and other programs, according to a Department of Justice press release at the time.
The next year, the company paid the government nearly $5.5 million to settle allegations it was paying doctors kickbacks to push its drug, which violated the “Anti-Kickback Act and caused the submission of false claims to Medicare for the procedures in which these Abbott products were used,” according to the Justice Department.
Abbott’s stock was trading below $30 when it was hit with the $1.5 billion fine. Despite the legal issues, its price has more than doubled, trading at around $68 today.
Scott, a Republican running to unseat three-term Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, never held elected office before he was elected governor of Florida in 2010. At the time, he withstood a barrage of criticism about massive Medicare fraud that happened under his watch during his time as a health-care executive.
In 1997, Scott resigned as CEO of Columbia-HCA, a company that owned hospitals across the country, as federal investigators looked into potential fraud.
In 2000, the company pleaded guilty and was hit with $840 million in criminal fines, civil penalties and damages, making it the nation’s largest health-care fraud case to that point.
The Justice Department found that Scott’s company had illegally billed Medicare for reimbursement for its advertising costs, unnecessary medical tests and home visits that never happened, among other charges.
During the 2010 Republican gubernatorial primary, The Miami Herald reported that Scott became angry at a GOP event when he was asked about the case and denied he had any role in it.
“I was never part of any investigation against me. Alright? So when Bill McCollum goes out and says that stuff, it’s outrageous. It’s completely untrue,” Scott said, referring to the state’s then-attorney general and his chief rival in the campaign.
“So, what I told people from day one — people made mistakes at that company,” he said. “When you’re the CEO you take responsibility. What I could have done better is more internal and external auditors. But that’s the difference. In business, you learn from mistakes. In government, they never do.”