Health Care Reform Public Option Enemy No. 1: Rick Scott

If you have a television, you could not have miss all those scary, anti-health care reform ads with a tall bald man talking directly to you about the evils from letting the gov't get anywhere near your health insurance, right?

Well, meet the propagandizing, fear-mongering, Rick Scott. GottaLaff aptly describes what Rick Scott is doing for the health care reform debate, in her piece Public Option Enemy No. 1, as "swiftboating" (h/t @Shoq ).

From Mother Jones' Nick Baumann:

You've probably seen the ads. Ominous voice-overs warn you about how health care reform "could put a bureaucrat in charge of your medical decisions, not you." A massive bulldozer with "government-run insurance plan" written on the side crushes your health care "choices." Canadians and Britons relay horror stories of their experiences dealing with health care in those nightmarish socialist dystopias.

The ads are the product of a multimillion-dollar ad campaign designed to derail health care reform—especially what's been dubbed the "public option," which would set up a government-run plan to compete with private insurers. The man behind this ad blitz is the person who might be Public Option Enemy No. 1: one-time hospital executive and longtime Republican donor Richard Scott.

Back in March, Scott spent $5 million of his own money to set up a nonprofit called Conservatives for Patients' Rights. The group aims to be the command center for the right's fight against Democratic reform efforts. With the major interest groups—including hospital companies, pharmaceutical companies, and doctors—that have opposed reform in the past holding their fire this year in order to have a seat at the legislative table, Scott's group has filled the anti-reform void.


Scott isn't foolish enough to say he opposes reform outright. Instead, his group says it wants to promote health care reform that focuses on "choice" (of doctors), "competition" (between private insurers), "accountability" (standardized insurance claim forms and tax reform), and "personal responsibility" (of patients).

Not everyone thinks that's real change.

"What Rick Scott is doing is talking about protecting the status quo, which is bankrupting businesses and bankrupting families," says Peter Harbage, a fellow at the Center for American Progress, which supports the public option. With so many groups—from the hospital industry to the pharmaceutical industry to Wal-Mart—coming together in support of reform, "it's disappointing that [Scott] doesn't want to be a constructive part of the conversation," Harbage says.

Rep. Jerry Nadler, a New York Democrat, was more blunt: "Rick Scott pushing health care reform is like Bernie Madoff attempting to regulate the financial industry," he told Mother Jones.

The sad part is this swiftboating of real health care form might be starting to to work:

Eric Burns, the president of liberal media watchdog Media Matters for America, says Scott's advocacy is having an impact. "Scott is spending an enormous amount of money to influence the debate over health care reform. He's essentially cornered the market on providing false and misleading information on the health care reform debate." Some of Scott's ads focus on nightmarish tales of government-run health care in places like Canada and Britain, but President Obama hasn't proposed going to a Canadian-style single-payer system. And it is not just Media Matters that has criticized the ads—the Annenberg Center's FactCheck.org also found the group's ad "very misleading."

To disseminate its message, CPR has hired the same public relations company that handled the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. The firm, CRC Public Relations, did not respond to questions for Scott submitted by Mother Jones. But Burns says CPR's ties to CRC are no coincidence. "CPR is essentially the conservative Swift Boat operation for the health care reform debate," Burns says.

The media have certainly aided Scott's efforts to dodge his history and his conflicts of interest. CNN and Fox News, among others, have interviewed Scott without questioning him about HCA or his new company's dependence on the uninsured.


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