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Florida's largest hospital ends overcharging of uninsured

Tampa Bay Times 

Hospital Corporation of America, Florida’s largest provider of trauma care, announced this week it will stop charging uninsured patients a special trauma fee that can add $30,000 or more to their bills.  Images

The new policy, announced Tuesday to the News Service of Florida, comes one month after the Tampa Bay Times published the results of a yearlong investigation showing that hospitals across the state were charging huge fees to trauma patients even when they needed little more than first aid.

The fees work like a cover charge and come in addition to charges for medical procedures. The Times found that HCA’s fees were by far the highest in the state, averaging $27,644 in the first half of last year compared to $6,754 at other hospitals in the state.

Even so, waiving the trauma fees for uninsured HCA patients may have little impact. Hospitals generally collect only a portion of what they bill patients. And the amount collected from uninsured patients — compared to those covered by auto or health insurance policies — can be tiny.

HCA officials told the Times last month that their hospitals collect less than $300 on average from uninsured patients.

HCA’s announcement comes at a critical time for the for-profit hospital chain.

State legislators are weighing bills that could decide a debate crucial to HCA’s unprecedented expansion into trauma in Florida.

The bills being considered would grant HCA the right to keep three trauma centers open regardless of the outcome of court cases seeking to shut them down.

After the Times investigation, the Senate tacked on measures to one of the bills that would curb the fee and promote pricing transparency. The House is now considering doing the same to its HCA legislation.

Today, the Senate will consider legislation to cap the fee at $15,000 for a year and convene an advisory council to study fees and make long-term recommendations.

Also today, the House will consider legislation to implement a similar $15,000 cap and require hospitals post their trauma fee prices inside their trauma centers and on their websites. Read more. 

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