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Monday, 30 July 2012 05:44

Tuberculosis Contamination May Spread in Florida Due to Cutbacks of Florida Governor Rick Scott

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

According to the US Department of Justice (DOJ) in 2003, "HCA Inc. (formerly known as Columbia/HCA and HCA - The Healthcare Company) has agreed to pay the United States $631 million in civil penalties and damages arising from false claims the government alleged it submitted to Medicare and other federal health programs, the Justice Department announced today." The DOJ entitled its press release on the settlement, "The Largest Healthcare Fraud in US History."

The DOJ news release also records additional HCA civil and criminal fraud in billing the government illegally for services:

Previously, on December 14, 2000, HCA subsidiaries pled guilty to substantial criminal conduct and paid more than $840 million in criminal fines, civil restitution and penalties. Combined with today's separate administrative settlement with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), under which HCA will pay an additional $250 million to resolve overpayment claims arising from certain of its cost reporting practices, the government will have recovered $1.7 billion from HCA, by far the largest recovery ever reached by the government in a health care fraud investigation.

Rick Scott, the Republican governor of Florida, founded what became HCA and resigned as the false claims to Medicare and other federal health programs started coming to light as a result of whistleblowers (who later received a portion of the HCA settlement).

Scott is now refusing to cooperate with the Affordable Care Act, particularly in relation to Medicaid. He regularly denounces government healthcare programs, even though his for-profit healthcare firm made nearly $2 billion in profit from these same federal government payers -- fraudulently.

The governor of the Sunshine State -- if criminal justice were fair and not subject to granting the wealthy impunity -- would very possibly be serving a prison term instead of being ensconced in the Florida's governor's mansion.

Therefore, it is tragically ironic that, according to The Political Carnival, "Florida sends TB patients to $35-a-night motel," and that Rick Scott's state government is "accused of [the] covering up of the worst TB outbreak in 20 years."

Scott is cutting back social safety net services, with a specially sharp knife for public healthcare, and recently reduced the budget for the state health department. This resulted in the closing of the state's hospital for treating the worst tuberculosis cases that needed to be isolated from the general population to avoid a contagious outbreak.

Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) called a spike in tuberculosis in the Jacksonville area among the homeless one of the worst outbreaks in the US in recent years (with at least 13 dead).

But as The Political Carnival reports, Rick Scott's anti-public health stance (unless it fraudulently benefited his former HCA) was to place the indigent tuberculosis patients in motels. But it is hard to confine tuberculosis to poor minorities, because the disease, unlike the governor of Florida, does not discriminate who it infects on the basis of skin color or economic condition.

So Rick Scott, who should likely be in jail for allowing the defrauding of Medicare and other government healthcare programs for hundreds and hundreds of millions of doctor in profit, is instead risking a spread of tuberculosis in Florida as a result of "austerity" cutbacks.

That's just another one of his crimes, and a danger to the well-being of the residents of Florida.