Medicaid Fraudster Rick Scott Criticizes New York's Medicaid Spending for the Poor

Medicaid Fraudster Rick Scott Criticizes New York's Medicaid Spending for the Poor
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The public has largely forgotten that Florida Gov. Rick Scott — a loose conglomeration of bats that accidentally got trapped inside a suit — once ran a hospital system that stole a record amount of money from poor, sick people. Scott ran Columba/HCA hospital system, which in 1997 got caught fraudulently billing the government for tests and services they weren't actually offering. At the time, it was the largest case of Medicare and Medicaid fraud in American history. Scott resigned in disgrace, and the company ended up paying the government two fines that totaled $1.7 billion. That's the sort of person who runs Florida.

Today, Scott had the gall to criticize someone else's Medicaid spending.

Most people involved in criminal fraud rings who avoid jail time would kindly shut up, lay low, and try to avoid being outed as vampires willing to steal money from dying kids and the elderly. But that's not our Rick Scott: Today, in an open letter to Washington lawmakers, Scott voiced his concerns about the pending Obamacare repeal bills winding through the U.S. House and Senate — and took a huge, whiny whack at New York state, which spends more on Medicaid than any other state in the country except California.

This being Scott, the op-ed is also full of brazen lies and misleading statements, too.

In short, Scott is upset that the pending Better Care Reconciliation Act, which still might not get voted on, gives too much Medicaid money to New York, and not enough to Florida. (Scott doesn't seem upset that, on the whole, the BCRA cuts Medicaid by $774 billion over 10 years, but that's another story entirely.)

"Long before the Obamacare debate, New York ran a terribly inefficient Medicaid program for decades which ran up their state’s deficit and hindered their economy," Scott wrote in a letter published to the governor's website. "Florida is the exact opposite. We have been efficient with our dollars while providing quality care to those who truly need Medicaid."

For those who actually understand history, statistics, and elementary arithmetic, that's a galling statement. While New York's Medicaid spending is high, the idea that over-spending on health care "hindered the economy" isn't borne out by any evidence. In fact, federal data shows New York's Gross State Product is astronomically bigger than Florida's — larger by a full 60 percent — despite the fact that New York has roughly 1 million fewer residents. If we're going to take Scott's premise — that Medicaid spending impacts the economy — at face-value, then the exact opposite claim is true, and over-spending on health-care for the poor at the expense of the deficit is actually a good thing.

Likewise, there are some truly dark ideas lurking behind Scott's contention that Florida's Medicaid spending is more "efficient" than New York's. Yes, New York state has long spent a ton on Medicaid, but a 2011 New York Times editorial broke down exactly why that is, and it's largely just because the state offers the poor more health services.

Likewise, Medicaid recipients are concentrated within New York City, which is costlier than most cities in America. The state also set lower thresholds for who qualified for Medicaid, meaning people making slightly more money could still qualify for state coverage. Amid a budget crunch, the Times warned that cutting back Medicaid spending would mean caring for fewer people.

Compare that to Florida: Scott brags about the state's "efficiency," which in human terms means covering less sick people. Scott famously refused to expand Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act, a decision that data shows would have lowered the state mortality rate. One woman who fell into the subsequent "coverage gap" this created, Cara Jennings, was so pissed off that she tracked Scott to a Gainesville Starbucks and was filmed calling him an "asshole" to his face.

Likewise, Floida's allegedly "efficient" Medicaid spending means the state ranks somewhat far behind New York in terms of actual health rankings, too.

Scott lies through his teeth through the rest of the op-ed. Some quick hits:

For decades, the federal government has been willing to spend more than it takes in. We all know this is not sustainable, leaving debt for our children and grandchildren – more than $19 trillion in debt and counting. The inaction we’ve seen on repealing Obamacare shows that hasn’t changed. Throughout this healthcare debate, a lot of people have been advocating for bigger government, and not a lot of people have been advocating for taxpayers. I will always advocate for Florida’s hardworking taxpayers.
The Congressional Budget Office in 2014 found that Obamacare was actually reducing the deficit. The CBO has warned repeatedly that repealing the ACA with no replacement plan would actually swell the federal debt. While the CBO did estimate that the BCRA would reduce the deficit by roughly $321 billion over 10 years, the CBO says the BCRA would do so by cutting Medicaid, which is just a mean thing to do to if the program is already sustainable. (And in general.) There's also a great case that jacking up the federal debt doesn't matter and is largely beneficial anyhow, but that's an argument for another story.

While a new bill has been introduced this week, it has taken far too long to get rid of the disaster of Obamacare, and I fear the politicians in Washington will never find common ground on this critical topic. There is absolutely no question that Obamacare must be repealed immediately so Americans can actually afford to purchase health insurance.
Obamacare certainly wasn't perfect (it left 27 million people uninsured, and premiums were still really high), but if you think repealing the basic regulations in place somehow will make insurance cheaper, congratulations — I am actually a Nigerian Price and you've won such a huge amount of money.

None of the lines in the op-ed, however, were grosser than this:

To lower costs, fundamental reform to the Medicaid program is needed. Obamacare encouraged a massive expansion of Medicaid to cover able-bodied, working-aged adults, even as 600,000 elderly Americans and individuals with disabilities nationwide sit on waiting lists to access services through this program.
Did you catch that? A "massive expansion of Medicaid to cover able-bodied, working aged adults?" That's Scott trying to claim that, if you've got all four limbs and are able to work, you're magically able to afford health care, and if you can work, you don't deserve government help. This is draconian, mean, and not how every other system in the developed world works — no other developed country forces its citizens to work in order to go to the hospital.

Likewise, many analysts claim that 600,000-waiting-list number is total hogwash — and even if it were real, Scott's proposed Medicaid "fixes" basically break down to dismantling Medicaid and replacing it with a skimpy "block-grant" funding program, that allocates fixed amounts of money to states that they'll burn up quickly each year.

It's surprising Scott now wants to tear up Medicaid entirely — without Medicaid to scam, how will someone else train to be Florida's next governor?
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Jerry Iannelli is a former staff writer for Miami New Times from 2015 to March 2020. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.