Rick Scott Suggests He Was ‘Persecuted’ Over Giant Medicare Fraud

Standing outside Donald Trump’s criminal trial, Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) suggested he, like Trump, was the victim of unfair political persecution — pointing to the Justice Department’s inquiry into his hospital chain, which paid $1.7 billion to resolve Medicare fraud charges.

“I’m fed up,” Scott said Thursday. “I watched what happened to me and my company. I’ve talked to businesspeople over the years [about] what’s happened to them, when you have political persecution. And now what I’ve watched with [former] President Trump with all these cases. This is just simply — they don’t want this guy on the ballot.”

He added, “I’ve had experience with this. Back in the 90s, I was the lead opponent to Hillarycare,” referring to then-First Lady Hillary Clinton’s health care plan. “After it was defeated, she used the Justice Department to go after me and my company,” he claimed. “This can’t continue. What’s happening to this president is wrong.”

Scott made similarly combative comments defending Trump in an appearance on Fox & Friends earlier on Thursday. “I fought Hillarycare, and guess what happened when I fought Hillarycare? Justice came after me and attacked me and my company,” he said.

Scott, the former governor of Florida, was previously the CEO of Columbia/HCA — now known as HCA Healthcare, the nation’s largest hospital chain. He resigned from Columbia/HCA after the FBI began a probe that ultimately resulted in the company paying $1.7 billion in fines to settle charges of rampant Medicare fraud. The fines were a record at the time.

According to the Miami Herald, “federal investigators found that Scott took part in business practices at Columbia/HCA that were later found to be illegal — specifically, that Scott and other executives offered financial incentives to doctors in exchange for patient referrals, in violation of federal law, according to lawsuits the Justice Department filed against the company in 2001.”

Columbia/HCA pleaded guilty to 14 felonies — most of which were committed during Scott’s time leading the company, according to the paper.

The comments represent a major shift for Scott, who has long apologized for the company’s behavior.

During his 2010 campaign for governor, Scott said, “As I have said repeatedly, Columbia/HCA made mistakes, and I take responsibility for what happened on my watch as CEO.”

He even apologized in an FAQ section on his website: “I’ve made mistakes in my life. And mistakes were certainly made at Columbia/HCA,” he said on the website. “I was the CEO of the company and as CEO I accept responsibility for what happened on my watch. I learned very hard lessons from what happened and those lessons have helped me become a better businessman and leader. Lessons I will bring to the governorship with your support and vote.”

Alex Wood, a spokesperson for the Florida Democratic Party, tells Rolling Stone: “Rick Scott admitted to overseeing the largest Medicare fraud in history and wrote the plan to gut Medicare. Anytime he reminds voters of his attacks on the health care that nearly five million Floridians depend on, it’s a reminder why he shouldn’t be in the Senate.”

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