Palm Beach Post: Gov. Rick Scott’s drug testing policy stirs suspicion

March 26, 2011- One of the more popular services at Solantic, the urgent care chain co-founded by Florida Gov. Rick Scott, is drug testing, according to Solantic CEO Karen Bowling.

Given Solantic's role in that marketplace, critics are again asking whether Scott's policy initiatives – this time, requiring drug testing of state employees and welfare recipients – are designed to benefit Scott's bottom line.

The Palm Beach Post reported in an exclusive story two weeks ago that while Scott divested his interest in Solantic in January, the controlling shares went to a trust in his wife's name.

This raised a groundswell of concern and questions about his health policy initiatives, especially his push to move Medicaid into private HMOs. Solantic does not take Medicaid but does business with private Medicaid HMOs. The questions are growing louder with Scott's executive order on drug testing.

Solantic charges $35 for drug tests. The main customers? People who want advance reassurance they will pass an upcoming drug test for work or parole, and worried parents who bring in wayward teens, Bowling said. Customers can have results sent confidentially to their homes, without involving their employer or insurer.

"The wellness tests have really grown. People want to come in and find out, and then never see us again," Bowling said in an interview last month.

'Elephant in the room'

Scott surprised state employees Tuesday by issuing his executive order for mandatory drug testing of all prospective hires, and random drug testing of current employees, in agencies whose directors he appoints.

In the same announcement, he praised the Florida Legislature for its plans to require all welfare applicants to undergo drug testing as well.

Taken together, the initiatives could affect hundreds of thousands of Floridians, forcing them to submit to drug tests or risk losing their public jobs or benefits.


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