The Buzz

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Bill McCollum's attacks on Rick Scott don't match his congressional record

Bill McCollum's campaign for governor recently began bashing his Republican rival for heading a hospital Mccoll3 company that paid a record $1.7 billion fine for bilking Medicare and Medicaid.

But McCollum seemed to have a different perspective 12 years ago when he was a congressman and 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.

Speaking at the time, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, 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."

McCollum called Grassley's comments political "hogwash," saying his bill was an innocuous way to stop overzealous federal prosecutors from "blackmailing" hospitals and punishing them for simple errors.

"In our zeal to crack down on health care fraud and abuse, we must be careful not to throw our nets so wide that we ensnare honest providers who are making inadvertent billing mistakes," McCollum said on March 19, 1998, when he introduced his Health Care Claims Guidance Act in the U.S. House.

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.

Though McCollum's bill ultimately failed, it now lives on as a prime example of how his numerous votes and quotes in 20 years in Congress can haunt him on the Florida gubernatorial campaign trail. During the federal investigation of Columbia/HCA, from 1997 to 2000, McCollum never said a negative word publicly about the hospital chain or Rick Scott, according to the Congressional Record and news databases.

(More here)

[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 11:39am]

    

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