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Rick Scott’s campaign ad rebuts Democrats on Medicare fraud scandal

The U.S. Senate campaign for Republican Gov. Rick Scott is firing back at opposition with a new television commercial rebutting a Democratic group’s ad about Scott’s role in the 1990s Medicare fraud scandal involving the company he led, Columbia/HCA.

“Bill Nelson is confused again,” the new Scott commercial begins, continuing the Scott campaign’s theme of seeking to paint the 75-year-old Senator as mentally unreliable.

On Tuesday a Democratic political action committee supporting Nelson’s re-election, Majority Forward, launched a television commercial bringing up the HCA scandal. In that case, the federal government negotiated what was then the largest corporate criminal fine in a Medicare fraud case in history: $1.7 billion. Scott had been CEO of  Columbia/HCA but resigned in July 1997, less than four months after the federal investigation of HCA became public.

Scott’s new 30-second spot, “Responsibility,” seeks to set the record straight.

“When Rick Scott’s company was fined, 20 years ago, he took responsibility,” a narrator says. “And the company paid every penny it owed. That’s what strong leaders do. They take responsibility.”

Then the commercial tries to pivot to criticize Nelson for his own issues with Medicare.

The commercial cites Nelson’s vote in favor of the Affordable Care Act in 2009, though the ad does not cite that act by name or even use its more colloquial name, Obamacare. Instead, it focuses on one provision included in the Obamacare bill Nelson supported: the plan to cap how much Medicare reimburses hospitals and private insurance companies, a cap that shaved an estimated $716 billion off how much Medicare would have to pay over a ten-year period.

The commercial characterizes that as Nelson voting for $716 billion in cuts to Medicare.

“Nelson cut Medicare to use it for other government spending,” the narrator states. “Nelson was too weak to stand up for Florida’s seniors.”

In the opening moments, the new Scott campaign commercial blames Nelson for the Majority Forward ad, with text calling it “Nelson attack ad,” and declaring “Bill Nelson is confused again,” though legally neither Nelson nor his campaign can have anything to do with outside advertising from a super PAC such as Majority Forward.

Bill Nelson’s campaign spokesman Dan McLaughlin responded that Scott’s reference to the Medicare cuts in the Affordable Care Act is the same thing Nelson’s previous Republican opponent tried to express late in that campaign, and the claims were roundly debunked by fact-checkers who concluded the $716 billion was Medicare cost savings, not cuts in benefits.

“Rick Scott’s failed attack on Bill Nelson is borrowed from [then U.S. Rep.] Connie Mack IV who made the same charges when his campaign was in meltdown six years ago, and I like to think Rick Scott and his campaign are in meltdown now as well,” McLaughlin said.

Written By

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at

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