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The Ties That Bind: Bill McCollum's Attempt to Weaken a Massive Fraud Case Against Rick Scott's Comp

For Immediate Release: May 25, 2010
The Ties That Bind: Bill McCollum’s Attempt to Weaken a Massive Fraud Case Against Rick Scott’s Company Exposed
Today’s Times/Herald exposed that while in Congress, Bill McCollum led the fight to weaken federal whistleblower laws in an attempt to make Medicare fraud cases like the one Rick Scott’s Columbia/HCA company faced, harder to prosecute.
“It’s a sad day for Florida when both Republican candidates for governor are so intertwined in the same fraud scandal that you can’t untangle them,” said Eric Jotkoff, spokesperson for the Florida Democratic Party. “Whether it’s Rick Scott’s company committing massive, systemic fraud, or Bill McCollum’s pandering to companies that commit fraud by making whistleblower cases harder to file, one thing is clear — Scott and McCollum’s tangled relationship is not what Florida needs.”
The legislation then-Congressman McCollum introduced to dramatically weaken federal whistleblower laws came under fire even from within his own party. Conservative Republican Senator Chuck Grassley said the “McCollum bill is not designed to stop the prosecution of innocent mistakes. Rather, it would make fraud easier to accomplish more often. And it would establish new ‘look-the-other-way’ loopholes, including for ongoing cases such as Columbia/HCA.” (Times/Herald, 5/25/10)
Jotkoff added, “Rick Scott and Bill McCollum may be slinging mud now, but the truth is that no matter which disgraced candidate Republicans choose as their nominee for governor, this November Floridians will reject the McCollum-Scott package of fraud and scandal.”
The Ties That Bind:
McCollum Pushed Legislation to “Gut” a Federal Whistleblower Act, Designed To Halt Federal Investigations of Columbia/HCA and Other Similar Cases.  As a Congressman, Bill McCollum “pushed legislation that, critics said, would have ‘gutted’ a federal whistleblower act and was designed to halt federal investigations of hospitals — namely Columbia/HCA, which was run at one point by his new political rival, Rick Scott.”  The “legislation would have forced whistleblowers to meet a higher standard of evidence to file fraud claims, boosted the amount of fraud a company had to commit in order to trigger a claim and it wiped out whistleblower suits retroactively.” (Times/Herald, 5/25/10)
McCollum Received Campaign Contributions from Five Columbia/HCA Executives on Same Day.  “Months after McCollum filed the whistleblower legislation, he received $3,000 in congressional campaign contributions in a single day from Columbia/HCA executives, according published reports and the Center for Responsive Politics, a campaign finance watchdog group.”  On May 18, 1998, five Columbia/HCA executives contributed $3,000 to McCollum’s re-election campaign, including Thomas Frist, HCA’s chairman and CEO and Jack Bovender, HCA’s president. (Times/Herald, 5/25/10;  FEC, and HCA Healthcare Website)
CBO Estimated McCollum’s Changes to False Claims Act Could Cost Taxpayers More Than $6.3 Billion in Medicare and Medicaid Fraud.  “By making whistleblower cases harder to file, McCollum’s legislation could have cost taxpayers $6.3 billion over a decade because it encouraged fraud and allowed for more Medicare and Medicaid overbilling from health companies, according to an analysis from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.”  (Times/Herald, 5/25/10)
Columbia/HCA Lobbied on the Health Care Claims Guidance Act, HR 3523.  According to lobbying disclosure forms, in 1998, Columbia/HCA hired The Smith-Free Group to lobby on HR 3523, the Health Care Claims Guidance Act, which was sponsored by Bill McCollum. (1998 US Senate Lobbying Disclosures)
McCollum Never Said Negative Word Publicly About Scott or Columbia/HCA from 1997-2000.  “During the federal investigation of Columbia/HCA, from 1997 to 2000, McCollum never said a negative word publicly about the hospital chain or Scott, according to The Congressional Record and news databases.” (Times/Herald, 5/25/10)

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