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A Rick Scott Story Part II – how political giving and getting is done

By Dan Christensen, FloridaBulldog.org 

AHCA Secretary Elizabeth Dudek at Feb. 6, 2014 “signing day celebration” for winners of Medicaid Managed Medical Assistance contracts. Prestige Health Choice, a company in which Rick Scott donor Dr. Daniel Dosoretz had a substantial investment, was a winner.

Since shortly after Rick Scott was sworn in as governor in 2011, he and the Republican Party of Florida have raked in nearly $1.2 million in contributions from companies owned or controlled by Dr. Daniel Dosoretz, the ambitious founder and former chief executive of giant 21st Century Oncology.

State election records show that many of those contributions appear to have been timed to influence the award of a billion dollar state Medicaid contract by the Scott administration’s Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) in 2014.  If so, they worked.

Prestige Health Choice LLC, another company in which Dosoretz had a substantial financial stake, was one of more than a dozen bidders when AHCA solicited proposals in late December 2012 from health plans seeking to provide managed medical assistance (MMA) services for Medicaid enrollees in Region 11 – Miami-Dade and Monroe counties. AHCA said the MMA procurement “may be the largest procurement in Florida government.”

While AHCA’s award was pending in 2013, more than a dozen Dosoretz companies, including Fort Myers-based 21st Century Oncology, its lobbyists and Dosoretz business partner Dr. Howard Sheridan, contributed $191,500 to Let’s Get to Work, the “independent” political action committee funding Gov. Scott’s 2014 re-election effort. That was atop $141,000 that Dosoretz’s companies gave to Let’s Get to Work and the Republican Party of Florida in 2011-2012 before AHCA’s Invitation to Negotiate.

On Sept. 23, 2013 AHCA announced its intent to award its Region 11 contract for a Medicaid MMA Provider Service Network (PSN) to Prestige. Each region of the state was required by law to offer a PSN as a choice for Medicaid enrollment, in addition to health maintenance organizations (HMOs). PSN’s must be majority-owned by health care providers.

Four days later, records show, 21st Century oncology coughed up another $120,000 to Let’s Get to Work.

A bid protest

But that wasn’t the end of the money flow. On Oct. 4, a competitor filed a bid protest alleging, among other things, that Prestige was not really a PSN because it was not majority-owned by health care professionals who treat patients. At the time, the HMO Florida True Health owned 40 percent of Prestige’s shares with an option to purchase the remaining 60 percent. Florida True Health was owned by two insurers, Florida Blue and AmeriHealth Caritas.

Just after the new year, on Jan. 2, 2014, an administrative judge in Tallahassee filed a 69-page report finding that Prestige was ineligible to receive the PSN contract because it was not a PSN; that is, it was not majority-owned by health care professionals. Judge John G. Van Laningham recommended that AHCA rescind the proposed award to Prestige.

The judge’s report was quickly followed by a new burst of political giving by 21st Century Oncology. On Jan. 13, 2014, the company contributed another $150,000 to Let’s Get To Work. On Jan. 31, 21st Century and nine other Dosoretz companies gave Rick Scott’s campaign $3,000 each, or another $30,000.

Secretary Elizabeth Dudek, far right, and Florida Medicaid director Justin Senior, far left, with representatives from Prestige Health at Feb. 2014 contract signing. Senior is AHCA secretary today.

The additional $180,000 funneled to the governor’s re-election effort seemed to do the trick. AHCA soon rejected the judge’s recommendation.

On Feb. 6, 2014, at a public ceremony for new Medicaid HMOs and PSNs, AHCA Secretary Elizabeth Dudek – a Scott appointee – handed Prestige representatives a signed contract to provide services in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties under Florida’s MMA program. Over five years, the contract was worth in excess of $1 billion.

“Through a rigorous competitive procurement process, the Agency selected the best health plans to provide services to more than 3 million Floridians who will enroll in the MMA program when implementation is complete in August 2014,” said an AHCA press release announcing the contract signings.

More Dosoretz money to Scott, Republicans

Over the next year – from March 2014 until March 2015 – 21st Century and other Dosoretz companies gave the Republican Party of Florida another $430,000. The company also gave Let’s Get to Work another $30,000.

The dollar-value of Dosoretz’s investment in Prestige is not known and Dosoretz did not respond to requests for comment left with his offices over two days. Available public documents, however, show it to be sizable.

Dr. Daniel Dosoretz, left, and Gov. Rick Scott

A PowerPoint presentation prepared by Prestige as it was starting up in early 2007 identified Dosoretz as leading a Florida-based physician group that would provide as much as $4 million in equity plus $8 million in reserves. And state records show that between 2008 and 2015 Dosoretz’s son-in-law, Brian Fox, was one of seven Prestige’s seven corporate managers.

In 2012, Florida True Health paid more than $34 million for 40 percent of Prestige. The price paid to acquire the remaining 60 percent in 2015 was not disclosed.

In March 2014, as a major owner and director of Fort Myers’ Edison Bancshares Inc, Dosoretz filed paperwork with the Federal Reserve Board stating that as of Dec. 31, 2013 he owned 8.42 percent of Prestige Health and 25 percent of Prestige Health Capital Partners. Two months later, 21st Century filed with the SEC its employment agreement with Dosoretz in which it was disclosed he was a member of Prestige’s board of directors.

Dosoretz steps down

Dosoretz stepped down as 21st Century’s chief executive in September 2016 and quit its board in January 2017 as legal and financial problems mounted. They included a $54-million payout to settle federal billing fraud allegations. 21st Century filed for bankruptcy protection in May 2017 and emerged under new leadership early this year.

Since moving on, Dosoretz has continued his political giving.

As Florida Bulldog reported on Oct. 16, two Dosoretz companies, Theriac Management Associates and TEM, contributed $70,000 to Gov. Scott’s “independent” New Republican Super PAC in May. That Super PAC is funding his campaign to unseat Democrat Sen. Bill Nelson.

Dosoretz and his wife, Celia, have kicked in another $16,200 directly to Scott’s Senate campaign.

Those contributions were made shortly after Gov. Scott recommended that the Legislature approve a  non-recurring grant of $733,660 for DNA Comprehensive Therapy Services, LLC, a Fort Myers for-profit founded in 2013 by Dosoretz’s daughter, Elizabeth Dosoretz, and her husband, Jason Moon. The company provides mental health services to adults and children under the name Elite DNA Therapy Services.

The grant was the second of two identical, non-recurring state grants to Elizabeth Dosoretz’s company. In 2017, Elite DNA hired the governor’s longtime friend, lobbyist William “Billy” Rubin, of Fort Lauderdale, paying his firm between $20,000 and $30,000, records show. Gov. Scott signed the state budget that included that first grant in July 2017.  The two-year total award to Elite DNA was $1.47 million.

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