Rick Scott Lets His Pals Run a Monopoly on State Employees' Health Care Coverage

Earlier in the week, the state Department of Management Services announced that it was consolidating the number of HMOs offered to state employees to one per county.

In a move the DMS says was "following the governor's direction," the department predicts the change will save taxpayers $400 million in two years.

The new HMO provider for 38 counties in the state -- including Broward, Palm Beach, and Miami-Dade -- also happens to have some close ties to Gov. Rick Scott.

AvMed Health Plans, which won the bid to be the sole HMO provider in the 38 counties, happened to be very friendly to Scott on the campaign trail.

State campaign contribution records don't provide details of donors' employment, but Health News Florida reported during Scott's campaign for governor that he received $5,000 from people associated with AvMed. The company itself also shelled out $10,000 for Scott's inauguration party.

On the other hand, UnitedHealthcare of Florida -- which claims it provided HMO coverage to 66 of the state's 67 counties before it was butted out of most of them -- has no such record of contributions to the governor. In fact, the contribution records show that someone named David Lewis -- the same name of UnitedHealthcare's

And wouldn't you be surprised if Florida TaxWatch had recommended this new plan to the governor and Department of Management Services?

In Florida TaxWatch's most recent health care recommendations, it advocated both a self-funding HMO model and savings from "consolidation of services both medically and geographically," which were both adopted in the new HMO policy rolled out on Monday.

The 26,000 state employees who will have a new HMO provider can either switch to the new one or opt to enroll into the state's preferred-provider organizations program.

As Gov. Scott says in his statement on the HMO choices, "This is what Floridians asked for, and I intend to make sure their government delivers it."

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