Think back to 1997, the year Rick Scott was forced out as top executive at the huge hospital corporation he helped build, Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp., amid a massive Medicare billing investigation. Ever think a state government would hold a parade in Scott's honor after that?
Welcome to 2011. Scott is taking office as the Republican governor of one of the nation's largest populations of Medicare recipients, and he's pulling out all stops in observing the occasion.
His website, scottcarrollinaugural.com, describes a seven-city “inaugural appreciation” tour that will precede the Jan. 4 victory, er, inauguration parade down Monroe Street in Tallahassee.
The parade will then give way to a black-tie inaugural ball, for which tickets were on sale to the public for $95 each. Critics groused that the $2 million event was being paid for by big corporations looking for influence—like, say, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida, a donor whose subsidiary First Coast Service Options is up for renewal on its $1.8 million-a-year job auditing the state's Medicaid program, a no-bid contract it has held since 2006.
Proponents say it's responsible only for Gov. Scott to put on an event that includes many free events for which taxpayers won't have to foot a bill because of corporate donations. They also noted that their research shows that the $2 million spent on the ball will generate $4.5 million in economic activity, including more business for local hotels and restaurants.
“As Florida transitions to a New Year and toward a new economy, the private sector will be leading the way,” Florida Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Mark Wilson said in a news release on the inaugural's site.
That seemed like a fitting comment, as one of the first items on Scott's healthcare agenda for the state will be deciding whether to further privatize its Medicaid HMO program. Outliers will stay tuned.