Thursday, April 2, 2009

Dr. No: The Dirty Money Behind Those Negative Healthcare Ads


I started seeing them on CNN last week. They were ads apparently targeted against providing a real solution to America's health care problem. The ads wanted to twist the issue to be one of patient rights. I couldn't make the connection, since if you don't have insurance, what patient rights might you really have? But I was reminded of the Harry and Louise ads that helped to end support for health care reform when Clinton was President. I planned to write about these new ads, but the project kept being pushed to the bottom of my pile. It took this article in the NY Times to rekindle my interest.

The moneybags behind the ads come from a man whom I dub as "Dr. No." His name is Richard L. Scott and he is no MD. He is just one of those very rich investor types we so love to hate these days. Of course, he has more than just an ideological reason for being against health care reform, he created the largest health care company in the world, Columbia/HCA. Among other things, they own lots of nursing homes. In the 1990s, HCA bought and owned the nursing home in South Carolina where my mother lived her last years. The home was always understaffed, and the staff were underpaid. I guess that is how Scott and folks like him get rich at the expense of others.

I don't think like Dr. No. I think access to health care is a right. Our Declaration of Independence states that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are inalienable rights. If you can't access or get good health care, then how is your right to life and your pursuit of happiness ensured? Beats the hell out of me, but there are many vested interests or ideologues such as Dr. No who would have you believe that the "real" issue is something else, such as nebulous "patient rights," where some bureaucrat in Washington makes life and death decisions for you.

My mother had Medicare for almost twenty years and could select her own doctors and rarely had problems with the system. I've had more problems with private insurance companies deciding what bills they will or will not pay than my mother ever had with Medicare. Dr. No wants private companies who make money off of your illness to determine your access and mine.

Dr. No previously provided some of the funding behind the "swift boat" ads that attacked John Kerry during his campaign to be President. That should give you a frame of reference for Scott's lack of veracity and disclosure on health care. He is trying, badly I think and hope, to reframe the health care debate to not be about the real issues, which are controlling costs and the lack of access. However, sometimes the public lets people like Scott get away with these things. Let's not repeat Clinton health care. Please.
Mr. Scott’s emergence this spring as the most visible conservative opponent to Mr. Obama’s not-fully-defined health care effort has former friends and foes alike doing double takes, given Mr. Scott’s history.
...
“He hopes people don’t Google his name,” said John E. Hartwig, a former deputy inspector general at the Department of Health and Human Services, one of various state and federal agencies that investigated Columbia/HCA when Mr. Scott was its chief executive. [NY Times]
Please do Google him. I beg you. Uncover the truth for yourself, but here is a tidbit you might like to know. Emphasis mine.
Scott, the Chairman and CEO of Columbia/HCA, was forced out by his own board of directors in July 1997. Columbia pled guilty to charges that included the over-billing of state and federal health programs. The company paid $1.7 billion to settle the charges. Scott was replaced by Thomas Frist, Jr., son of Senator Bill Frist, then Majority Leader in the U.S. Senate. Columbia/HCA eventually changed its name back to the name of Frist's flagship company, HCA, Inc. in 1999. [Wikipedia]
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