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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Gov. Scott continues price gouging crusade against all hospitals, not just for-profits



Gov. Rick Scott is doubling down trying to convince lawmakers to issue stiff penalties against hospitals that charge high rates.

Friday morning, he sent an envoy of supporters, including Chief of Staff Melissa Sellers, to presentation for members of the House Select Committee on Affordable Health Care Access. Mary Beth Vickers, the governor’s health care policy coordinator, made the case that hospitals are “price gouging” consumers by billing them at high rates.

“Price gouging is not characteristic of a free market at all but it’s the most egregious example of price fixing,” Vickers said.

This is the latest in an ongoing campaign against hospitals that Scott — himself a former CEO of Columbia/HCA, which was fined $1.7 billion in a Medicare fraud case under his leadership — has put forward in the last year.

After Vickers’ presentation Friday, Scott’s office put out a press release about a new hospital price website published this week by the Florida Hospital Association. And Vickers said a video about people who have been victims of price gouging will come out soon.

She highlighted several of those victims in her presentation to the House committee Friday, including at least one who reported price gouging after being treated at a nonprofit hospital. Scott has targeted nonprofit and for-profit hospitals alike in his rhetoric and in proposed changes to how Medicaid money is distributed.

He wants to enforce criminal penalties against hospitals that try to collect a patient bill worth more than 115 percent of the average cost of a procedure at that facility.

And as he and his staff discuss price gouging, they point to data that shows that Florida is home to 20 of the 50 worst price-gouging hospitals in America

What they don’t point out is that every one of those hospitals is a for-profit hospital. In fact, just one of the 50 biggest price-gougers is a nonprofit, and it is in Pennsylvania. Fourteen of the 20 worst price-gougers in Florida are HCA hospitals.

Rep. Mia Jones, D-Jacksonville, went as far as to ask Vickers what the biggest price gougers all have in common Friday.

“Were you able to identify anything about that 20 that seemed to be consistent?” Jones asked.

“Not necessarily,” Vickers replied. “Not that we could see that there was a method behind the madness."

[Last modified: Friday, January 15, 2016 12:29pm]


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