Proving that his early history of setting the record for the largest federal fine ever for Medicare fraud was not just a fluke, Florida Governor Rick Scott now has taken actions to protect the income of fraudulent “pain clinics” across South Florida, even drawing the ire of fellow Republicans for his blatant support of illegal activity that is killing seven Floridians a day.
Hiaasen’s January article sets the stage:
Interestingly, she [Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi] didn’t mention having any nightmares about Florida’s storefront pain clinics, which are still handing out Vicodins like Tic-Tacs, and overdosing customers at the rate of seven fatalities per day — more than heroin, crystal meth and cocaine combined.
Florida has become one of the nation’s favored destinations for prescription-drug dealers, who travel here to load up their car trunks and head north with the pills, which are sold on the black market for up to $30 each.
Hiaasen points out that Florida finally tried to catch up with other large states by passing a bill aimed at stricter regulation of pill mills calling themselves “pain clinics”, which are so poorly regulated in Florida that as Hiaasen pointed out in his February column, convicted heroin dealer Vincent Colangelo was up to selling $150,000 worth of pain pills a day before finally being indicted on federal charges.
Sadly, Scott is standing squarely in the way of the efforts to shut down the pill mills. From January:
Efforts to shut down the unscrupulous clinics have been stymied by Bondi’s Republican colleague, newly elected Gov. Rick Scott. One of his first acts was to eliminate the state Office of Drug Control, which had been coordinating the war on pill mills.
Scott’s active defense of pill mills goes beyond merely shutting down the Office of Drug Control. From Hiaasen’s February column:
Last week, as drug agents secretly prepared to raid more than a dozen South Florida pill mills, Gov. Rick Scott reaffirmed his staunch opposition to a statewide computer database that would track prescriptions of Vicodin, Percocet and other dangerous narcotics.
Said Scott: “I don’t support the database. I believe it’s an invasion of privacy.”
Hiaasen professes that “no one can fathom why” Scott would stand in the way of shutting down such obvious abuse that is unique to Florida:
In the first six months of 2010, doctors in Florida prescribed nine times more oxycodone than was sold in the entire United States during that same period. Pain mills here have prospered wildly and proliferated – in Broward County alone there are 130.
I don’t find it all that mysterious. Given that Scott made his fortune by defrauding the federal government on medicare, and then getting off the hook by splitting his “take” with the government in the form of a huge fine, it seems only natural that Scott would defend other criminals who wish to make their fortunes fraudulently in medical “businesses”, without pesky Florida regulators looking into their “privacy”.
This morning’s NPR report points out lies Scott is spreading in his defense of the pill mills:
In fact, Florida does have a prescription drug database. After years of lobbying by law enforcement, the state legislature passed a bill last session to create one. It just didn’t provide money to pay for it. A private foundation stepped in and began raising funds for the database.
But recently, Gov. Rick Scott has come out foursquare against it. Scott hasn’t said much about why he wants to kill it. When pressed at a recent news conference, he said: “I believe it’s an invasion of privacy and…it appears that the money’s been wasted.”
An official with the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program Foundation says the governor’s accusation is false and that the group has already raised enough money to start up the state database.
What’s not to like about a governor who would actively spread lies to protect the income of criminals who kill seven people a day in his state?