Bill Frist's long record of corporate vices by Doug Ireland
While TV gushed last week over the Republicans' new Senate majority leader, Bill Frist, intervening in a traffic accident, portraying the former heart surgeon as a "Good Samaritan," in truth the GOP has simply replaced a racist with a corporate crook.
Frist was born rich, and got richer -- thanks to massive criminal fraud by the family business. The basis of the Frist family fortune is HCA Inc. (Hospital Corporation of America), the largest for-profit hospital chain in the country, which was founded by Frist's father and brother. And, just as Karl Rove was engineering the scuttling of Trent Lott and the elevation of Frist, the Bush Justice Department suddenly ended a near-decadelong federal investigation into how HCA for years had defrauded Medicaid, Medicare and Tricare (the federal program that covers the military and their families), giving the greedy health-care behemoth's executives a sweetheart settlement that kept them out of the can.
The government's case was that HCA kept two sets of books and fraudulently overbilled the government. The deal meant that HCA agreed to pay the government $631 million for its lucrative scams which, on top of previous fines, brought the total government penalties against the health-care conglomerate to a whopping $1.7 billion, the largest fraud settlement in history, breaking the old record set by Drexel Burnham.
The deal also meant that HCA can continue to participate in Medicare. And, as part of the Bushies' deal shutting down what Deputy Assistant FBI Director Thomas Kubic called "one of the FBI's highest-priority white-collar crime investigations," no criminal charges were brought against the top HCA execs who presided over the illegal bilking of federal programs designed to aid the poor -- and that includes Senator Frist's brother, Thomas, HCA's former CEO (and current director), who's been described by Forbes magazine as "one of the richest men in America," with a personal fortune estimated at close to $2 billion.
What did HCA do? It inflated its expenses and billed the government for the overrun; it billed the government for services ineligible for reimbursement (like advertising and marketing costs). HCA violated both law and medical ethics when, as Forbes put it, "the company increased Medicare billings by exaggerating the seriousness of the illnesses they were treating. It also granted doctors partnerships in company hospitals as a kickback for the doctors referring patients to HCA. In addition, it gave doctors loans that were never expected to be paid back, free rent, free office furniture, and free drugs from hospital pharmacies. (more)
Gee, Bill Frist comes from a family of thieves. It must be an absolute requirement for GOP leadership these days.