Campbell meets with U.S. private health exec who is at centre of huge fraud investigation

Big Apple rendezvous raises real concerns about B.C. Premier’s real health care agenda

B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell is on the defensive after an HEU investigation shed light on a meeting that Campbell held in New York City in early February with the disgraced former Chief Executive Officer for the giant U.S. hospital corporation Columbia/HCA Richard L. (Rick) Scott.

As it turns out, Scott is at the centre of a sweeping U.S. government investigation that started in 1997 focusing on fraudulent company practices for bilking various government programs, which—while only partially complete—has already resulted in the largest fraud settlement in U.S. history, U.S. $840 million plus U.S. $39 million in interest.

The revelations cast significant doubts about Campbell’s political acumen. But they also raise serious questions about what Campbell and his Liberal government have in store for B.C.’s public health care system.

Scott may still face the prospect of criminal charges.

Alarmingly, not only did Campbell meet with Scott, but the B.C. Premier also sent him a glowing follow-up letter appreciating “the opportunity to meet with people who are leaders in their respective fields who can provide me with valuable insights.” Scott’s track record, Campbell wrote, provides “an invaluable resource for government leaders, like myself, who see the need to reform and rebuild health care.”

And Campbell extended an invitation for Scott to visit B.C. to meet with his government.

Now, the Premier is backtracking. In an in depth Vancouver Sun article Friday, Campbell acknowledges that he withdrew the offer to Scott when questions were raised in his inner circle after HEU submitted a Freedom of Information request later in February.

While in New York, Campbell also met with Larry Marsh, a senior analyst for Lehman Brothers, a large, New York-based investment bank. Marsh specializes in for-profit health care companies and health care technology ventures.

The purpose of the Marsh meeting is not clear, but Campbell may have been testing the waters to line up financing for the Liberals’ proposed privately financed, owned and operated hospital replacement project in Abbotsford.

Lehman Brothers claims its health care banking group has “completed some 275 capital raising transactions, totaling U.S. $76 billion, and more than 60 [merger and acquisition] transactions totaling over U.S. $36 billion” in the last five years.