In 2014, when Florida officials wanted to permanently shut down the now infamous The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, Governor Rick Scott interceded on behalf of a lobbyist and frequent campaign contributor. The role of one of the Governor’s friends lobbying state officials on behalf of Dr. Jack Michel so Michel could obtain the license for the Hollywood Hills nursing home has not been previously reported. An attorney for Michel said the lobbyist, Bill Rubin, “performed routine lobbying efforts in connection with assisting us with the AHCA regulatory process required for licensure.”
The nursing home is now drawing intense scrutiny following the deaths of more than a dozen residents after its air conditioning system lost power during Hurricane Irma. This case reveals the nature of how business is often done in Tallahassee where political connections are the currency of the realm.
In 2014, Michel wanted to buy the nursing home, whose owner at the time, Karen Kallen-Zury, had just been convicted of Medicare fraud and was sentenced to 25 years in prison. Unfortunately for Michel, the state’s Agency for Healthcare Administration (AHCA), was set to revoke both licenses, filing two complaints against the nursing home and hospital on February 14, 2014.
In April 2014, he hired Bill Rubin, founder of the Rubin Group. Rubin is powerful player in Tallahassee whose ties to Governor Rick Scott are well known. Rubin had no trouble arranging a meeting between Michel and Dudek, the AHCA Secretary. State records show that between April 2014 and September 2015, Rubin’s firm was paid between $100,000 and $160,000 by one of Michel’s companies. And by October 2014, Dudek signed an order reversing AHCA’s decision to revoke the license thereby clearing the way for the licenses to be transferred to Michel.
Political leaders have questioned whether Michel should have been granted a license given the fact that Michel and two former business partners paid $15.4 million to the federal government to settle fraud claims. Rubin also represents HCA, the hospital chain once owned by Scott.
For its part, given the deaths at the nursing home in September, the state is once again trying to permanently revoke the nursing home’s license. The nursing home, which is currently closed, is fighting the state. A hearing on the matter is scheduled for January.