Ex-Health Insurance Executive: Rick Scott HMO Debacle Goes Against His "Obamacare" Rhetoric

Wendell Potter -- a former health care insurance executive who most recently left his post as head of communications for CIGNA -- has been following up on the Pulp's post on Florida's newest HMO policy for state employees and agrees that the decision to allow just one HMO provider per county is a bit strange.

The way Potter sees it, Gov. Rick Scott is now "doing exactly what he falsely claimed federal reform would do."

Now working as a senior analyst at the Center for Public Integrity, Potter says Scott used to be at the forefront in the crusade against the so-called "Obamacare," and even though the governor wasn't dropping facts about the new program, he's doing exactly what he led people to believe would happen -- limit competition.

Scott created, chaired, and bankrolled a group called Conservatives for Patients' Rights that spent millions of dollars on TV commercials attacking health care reform, especially a proposal calling for the federal government to create a public health insurance option to compete with private insurers.

In one ad, the narrator said the votes of a few key senators could determine whether or not Americans would be able to keep their own doctors and their own health insurance plans. The implication was clear -- people would lose the ability to choose their own doctors if health reform passed...

Well, guess what. A few days ago, Scott, now governor of Florida, said he had decided to reduce choice and competition that state workers have enjoyed for years.

The Pulp focused more on the state's choice of AvMed to become the sole HMO provider for South Florida counties, but Potter went to the state's Department of Management Services (DMS).

As Mitt Romney became the Democrats' talking point over the weekend for his assertion that corporations are people, the DMS told Potter that Florida is a "consumer."

Potter says a DMS spokesman told him competition was "no longer necessary."

The DMS says that it was a competitive process because the HMO providers had to bid to win the contracts, but try telling that to UnitedHealthcare of Florida -- which has filed a protest after being butted out of most Florida counties by losing to a bid it claims would actually increase the state's costs on HMO coverage by $117 million instead of saving $400 million, as the state has claimed.

Most state employees are enrolled in the coverage program from a preferred provider organization, but that still leaves the 26,000 who will have to change their HMO provider with the changes to the system, or they can leave the HMO program and enroll in the state's PPO.

It may not sound like much, but Potter says the change "is a very big difference in my book."

Remember, it was Scott who warned us that federal reform would lead to Americans losing their ability to choose their own doctors. Starting in January, thousands of Florida state workers and their dependents will face the possibility that the doctors they have been seeing for years will not be available to them because the HMO the State of Florida has chosen for them might not have those doctors in its provider network.

Purcell told me he believes the chosen HMOs will expand their provider networks to include more doctors, but where's the guarantee that will happen? There isn't one.

Follow The Pulp on Facebook and on Twitter: @ThePulpBPB. Follow Matthew Hendley on Facebook.

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