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How HCA turned trauma into a money-maker as regulators, legislators look away

From the Tampa Bay Times:

Last year in western Pasco County, 16-year-old Mason Jwanouskos was in the backseat of a convertible when his friend lost control and crashed into a stone pillar. He couldn't have picked a more expensive place to get hurt.

If he had crashed 30 miles to the south, he would have gone to one of three trauma centers in Tampa or St. Petersburg. They likely would have charged him about $30,000, their typical charge for patients with a concussion.

But Mason was closer to the trauma center at Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point.

His bill: $99,000.

Mason's uninsured parents were not billed three times more because their son got vastly better treatment. Bayonet Point offers the same kind of care as any state-certified trauma center.

The family's bill was so high because Mason, through no choice of his own, wound up at a trauma center run by Hospital Corporation of America.

An unprecedented analysis of state records by the Tampa Bay Times has found that HCA trauma centers, as a group, are charging injured patients tens of thousands of dollars more than Florida's other trauma centers.

The difference has nothing to do with the level of care provided.

Instead, HCA is capitalizing on a marketplace that is unchecked by politicians or regulators. That has allowed one of the nation's largest for-profit hospital chains to bill injured patients record fees, the Times has found. More here.