Hot on HuffPost:

See More Stories

Rick Scott: Unsung Conservative Hero of the Health Care Debate

5 years ago
  0 Comments Say Something  »
Text Size
If you've never heard of Rick Scott, you're not alone. He's hardly a household name. But if you were looking to hire someone with a "can do" entrepreneurial attitude – and experience as chief executive of the largest hospital company in America – Scott would be a stellar candidate.

He also just happens to be the one man arguably most responsible for stalling the rush toward ObamaCare. Early this past spring, Scott's new organization, Conservatives for Patients' Rights (CPR), began a multimillion-dollar ad campaign designed to defeat government-driven health-care reform.

Since March, CPR has aired numerous TV ads, many of which highlight health-care horror stories from Canada and England, where citizens wait in long lines for treatment and are sometimes denied treatment. Although it remains to be seen whether the United States will follow the European model of health care, when Scott first launched his effort, many observers believed the Democrats' notions on reform would inevitably become law. After all, many of the "stakeholders" -- the insurance industry, the pharmaceutical industry and major business groups -- had essentially been co-opted.

"When we got started on March second, everyone said, 'You are crazy, the bill is going to pass -- President Obama has the votes – and it'll be passed by May and signed by June,' " Scott told me. At that time, CNNMoney.com called Scott's efforts at derailment "a long-shot throw."

As those efforts gained traction, however, Scott became a controversial figure – and an administration target. As he's done with Fox News and Rush Limbaugh, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs has also sought to undermine Rick Scott's credibility, helpfully directing reporters to the fact that his company, Columbia/HCA, paid a $1.7 billion fine for over-billing state and federal health plans. (The president's aides and other Scott's critics conveniently ignore the fact that several elite non-profits, such as the Mayo Clinic, the Cleveland Clinic, Yale University Hospital and the University of Pennsylvania Health Services Center, also paid heavy fines for similar reasons.)

In any event, something funny happened on the way to the Obama health care revolution – Scott's message actually started to resonate with everyday Americans. Scott credits the tea-party movement, as well as modern communication miracles such as YouTube, for helping jump-start his efforts to stymie ObamaCare. As he noted in my interview with him, compared to the way things were in 1994, "way more of the population knows what's happening" today.

Scott has made several unorthodox strategic decisions, which left political experts scratching their heads. For example, although CPR did target some ads this past summer specifically at key states, CPR opted to spend the lion's share of its resources on national advertising. This strategy flies in the face of conventional wisdom. Orthodoxy holds that interest groups maximize their influence by funneling resources into a handful of states, such as, say, Arkansas, where Sen. Blanche Lincoln is a key swing vote, rather than spreading themselves too thin.

But Scott's gamble appears to have paid off. By running a national ad campaign, CPR helped generate the coast-to-coast momentum that led to the August town-hall meeting phenomenon, which ultimately put Democrats back on their heels. Scott continues to monitor the twists and turns in the health care debate. Regarding Harry Reid's plan for an "opt-out" public option, Scott tells me: "It's just cosmetic – you won't be able to opt out – you'll still have the taxes." He is referring to the fact that even if a state opts out of government-run health care, that state's citizens would still have to pay the federal taxes to fund it.

One of the things that set Scott apart has always been his background. An entrepreneur at heart, he believes non-profit hospitals are dreary and inefficient, but he also believes we have great health care in the nation. "If government stays out of the way, we will end up with very organized, very focused providers," he says. Scott should know. His hospitals boasted the lowest cost per patient while simultaneously earning high marks for patient satisfaction (according to a 1995 survey by The Gallup Organization, 94 percent of patients were satisfied with Columbia, compared to the national average of 88 percent).

Scott envisions free-market reforms transforming hospitals into places that deliver top-notch care for a reasonable price. He also believes that the market will lead entrepreneurs to start clinics specializing in certain areas where they can excel. Innovative hospital administrators, he says, will say, "I'm just going to focus on asthma patents. And I'll get great at it. And the prices will come down."

Scott's non-political background also keeps him from adhering to the conventional wisdom of the day. The optimistic Scott also differs with most doom-and-gloom conservatives in that he is not afraid of health care reform passing. "If they actually pass a broad health care bill," he says, "it will be repealed in the next two years. There's nothing in the bill that's driving costs down." This flies in the face of conservative dogma, which maintains that once a liberal "entitlement" is passed, it is never overturned.
Scott believes otherwise. He often does.
Outbrain - The Most Trusted Content Discovery Platform

Get Your Content Discovered.

Promote your content on premium websites

Learn More ›

Outbrain Amplify:
Get your content discovered

Your content will be promoted on the web's largest and most respected media properties, including CNN.com, Slate and ESPN. We make sure it's seen precisely when people will find it most interesting.

Learn More

Outbrain Engage: The solution for a modern publisher

Outbrain Engage is a full stack software solution that empowers an entire media organization to more effectively manage its online content and programming experience.

Learn More

The world's largest content discovery platform

We bring together premium publishers and marketers of all sizes (including many of the world's leading brands) into the world's largest and most vibrant content marketplace. Learn more about Outbrain ›

561 Million

The global audience reached by Outbrain each month*

190 Billion

The total recommendations we serve consumers monthly

80%

Of the world’s leading brands use Outbrain

* Audience reach according to comScore, September 2014. Leading brands via Ad Age DataCenter / Kantar Media, 2014.

Andy Blau
We selected Outbrain not only because the revenues were higher than others, but because its engine drives better recommendations than others.
Andy Blau
Senior Vice President, Group General Manager
Time Inc.
Dan Horowitz
It's less about buying traffic than it is about reaching the right people with relevant headlines to get them to your content.
Dan Horowitz
EVP and Senior Partner
Fleishman-Hillard Digital
Katrina Craigwell
Our goal is always to deliver content that adds value to the conversations being held by the end user. Outbrain allows us to do just that.
Katrina Craigwell
Global Manager of Digital Marketing
GE
Bailey Foote
The fact that we’re able to drive these kinds of transactions with consumers at scale and with increasing efficiency has made Outbrain paramount to our marketing strategy.
Bailey Foote
E-commerce Manager
The Line
Neal Moore
You cannot leave it to chance that someone will find and engage with your content. Outbrain can put your content in the midst of the world’s most prestigious publications.
Neal Moore
CEO
Click2View
Zach Zavos
Having links to our content appearing directly on premium publisher sites helped us establish our brand.
Zach Zavos
Co-Founder
Conversant Media
Mike Brito
Outbrain is one of those [critical] components helping us deliver the right messages to the right contingent at massive scale and in real time to counter a crisis.
Mike Brito
Group Director
WCG

A global footprint of service

We operate offices in 11 global territories and we partner with publishers and marketers in over 55 countries, including the U.S., UK, France, Brazil, India and Japan. Come join us ›

Our New Approach to Comments

In an effort to encourage the same level of civil dialogue among Politics Daily’s readers that we expect of our writers – a “civilogue,” to use the term coined by PD’s Jeffrey Weiss – we are requiring commenters to use their AOL or AIM screen names to submit a comment, and we are reading all comments before publishing them. Personal attacks (on writers, other readers, Nancy Pelosi, George W. Bush, or anyone at all) and comments that are not productive additions to the conversation will not be published, period, to make room for a discussion among those with ideas to kick around. Please read our Help and Feedback section for more info.

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum Comment Moderation Enabled. Your comment will appear after it is cleared by an editor.

Follow Politics Daily

  • Comics
robert-and-donna-trussell
CHAOS THEORY
Featuring political comics by Robert and Donna TrussellMore>>
  • Woman UP Video
politics daily videos
Weekly Videos
Woman Up, Politics Daily's Online Sunday ShowMore»
politics daily videos
TV Appearances
Showcasing appearances by Politics Daily staff and contributors.More>>