In wake of media scrutiny, HCA to waive trauma center activation fees for uninsured patients

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HCA health-care trauma centers, which are embroiled in a legal battle to stay open, announced Tuesday that they would waive “trauma activation” fees to uninsured patients. The move could offer discounts as much as tens of thousands of dollars. 

The fee is part of total patient bills, which serve to cover the cost to operate trauma centers. Although they vary between facilities, the fee can be as much as $33,000.

Activation charges came under scrutiny recently after a Tampa Bay Times report discovered the amounts charged by HCA trauma centers were significantly higher than comparable hospitals in the state.

According to HCA attorney Stephen Ecenia, the decision to allow a “100 percent” discount on activation charges for uninsured patients has nothing to do with the TBT report.

“It’s an issue they (company officials) have been looking at for quite a while,” he said.

HCA is in a legal and legislative battle on affiliated trauma centers opened by the chain in 2011 and 2012 at Blake Medical Center in Manatee County, Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point in Pasco County and Ocala Regional Medical Center in Marion County.

Hospitals in Tampa Bay, Gainesville and Jacksonville — each with long-standing trauma centers — launched a number of legal challenges to the state Department of Health over the approval of the HCA trauma centers. The legal action is threatening the HCA facilities’ continued operations.

On Thursday, committees in both the House and Senate expect to consider bills ensuring HCA centers continue to operate.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.