Saturday, June 16, 2018
Politics

No justification for gouging patients with sky-high trauma fees

At the risk of oversimplifying a year's worth of investigative reporting, here is the most important takeaway from the Tampa Bay Times' recent report on hospital trauma care bills:

When asked about the high cost of trauma response fees, the CEO of UF Health Shands Hospital acknowledged prices were out of whack with reality. He pledged to lower the trauma response cost, which is essentially a cover charge, from $10,000 to $4,000.

But here's the kicker:

Shands fees were already a mere fraction of the $27,600 average response fee being charged at HCA hospitals across the state.

Let that sink in.

Shands, in Gainesville, is among the finest hospitals in the nation, and officials there acknowledged their trauma fees were beyond outrageous.

So if $10,000 is a ridiculous price at Shands, how do HCA officials justify charging roughly 300 percent more?

Answer: They can't.

And anyone who suggests otherwise is either delusional or a paid shill.

Now, HCA officials will point out they rarely receive the entire fee. Between Medicare, negotiated insurance prices and reductions given to uninsured patients, HCA often gets a small percentage of its original charge.

So that explains why they charge up to $30,000 for a trauma patient to simply pass through the ER doors. Insurance companies pay a percentage of the bill, so higher prices mean greater profits.

As for uninsured patients, when negotiations begin at $30,000, then a $15,000 cut seems downright generous.

Meanwhile, the limit set by Medicare for trauma response fees is less than $1,000.

This is not to suggest that trauma care should be cheap. The equipment and personnel are the best of the best, and that comes at a high cost. The issue is the vast gulf between fair rates and price gouging.

Our governor and legislators love the idea of privatization and deregulation, but this is a perfect example of what happens when for-profit interests are allowed to run amok.

Corporations make million-dollar investments in campaign donations and lobbyists, and then reap tens of millions in profits as lawmakers look the other way.

Within days of publication of the Times' investigation, a committee in the state House cleared the way for legislation that makes life easier for HCA's hospitals in Florida.

Understand, this is a state that wants to drug test government employees, cut jobless benefits and withhold voting rights from felons. Yet when it comes to HCA, a company that was involved in what was once the largest government health care fraud in history, our representatives in Tallahassee can't wait to grease the skids for them.

And don't be fooled when they hide behind public safety arguments. That has nothing to do with obscene bills and profits. If lawmakers were truly interested in protecting patients, they would regulate trauma fees.

Gov. Rick Scott seems to care so little about your health care costs that he did not have the decency to answer a reporter's direct question about regulating trauma fees.

And make no mistake, this is costing you money. The higher trauma fees cause insurance companies to make higher payments to hospitals, and that means the cost eventually trickles down to your health insurance bills. The bottom line is you are being robbed. And your elected officials are working as lookouts.

Comments
GOP lawmakers decry family separations as WH defends policy

GOP lawmakers decry family separations as WH defends policy

WASHINGTON ó Congressional Republicans distanced themselves Thursday from the Trump administrationís aggressive policy of separating children from their parents at the southern border even as the White House cited the Bible in defending its "zero tol...
Published: 06/14/18
Sarah Sanders and  Raj Shah are planning to step down, per CBS report

Sarah Sanders and Raj Shah are planning to step down, per CBS report

Press secretary Sarah Sanders and principal deputy press secretary Raj Shah are considering stepping down, according to a CBS report. Sanders promptly responded in a Tweet saying, "I love my job and am honored to work for @POTUS." Does @CBSNews k...
Published: 06/13/18
Updated: 06/14/18
Fed raises key rate and sees possible acceleration in hikes

Fed raises key rate and sees possible acceleration in hikes

WASHINGTON ó The Federal Reserve has raised its benchmark interest rate for the second time this year and signaled that it may step up its pace of rate increases because of solid economic growth and rising inflation. The Fed now foresees four rate hi...
Published: 06/13/18
Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister hits $1 million mark in first bid for election

Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister hits $1 million mark in first bid for election

TAMPA ó Law enforcement officers never want to be outgunned. Neither do political candidates.Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister need not worry.The Republican candidate has amassed what appears to be a record-sized war chest of just more than $1 mil...
Published: 06/12/18
Romano: It ainít voter suppression if you bother to show up

Romano: It ainít voter suppression if you bother to show up

So the Supreme Court is in favor of voter suppression.Or is it election integrity?I suppose your interpretation depends on your party affiliation.Liberals seem convinced that an Ohio voting law upheld by the Supreme Court on Monday is a devious plot ...
Published: 06/12/18
Romano: It ainít voter suppression if you bother to show up

Romano: It ainít voter suppression if you bother to show up

So the Supreme Court is in favor of voter suppression.Or is it election integrity?I suppose your interpretation depends on your party affiliation.Liberals seem convinced that an Ohio voting law upheld by the Supreme Court on Monday is a devious plot ...
Published: 06/12/18
Trumpís tougher Cuba policy having little impact on Tampa area

Trumpís tougher Cuba policy having little impact on Tampa area

TAMPA ó June 16 will mark a year since President Trump announced a tougher Cuba travel policy, but unlike in much of the nation, the changes donít seem to have hurt local bookings to the island.The number of people traveling between Tampa and Havana ...
Published: 06/11/18
Updated: 06/13/18
Trump, Kim Jong Un arrive in Singapore for historic summit

Trump, Kim Jong Un arrive in Singapore for historic summit

SINGAPORE - President Donald Trump arrived here Sunday night ahead of a potentially historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the first meeting between the leaders of two countries that have been sworn enemies for almost seven decades.Air...
Published: 06/11/18
Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump made at least $82 million in outside income last year while serving in the White House, filings show

Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump made at least $82 million in outside income last year while serving in the White House, filings show

Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, the presidentís daughter and son-in-law, brought in at least $82 millionvin outside income while serving as senior White House advisers during 2017, according to new financial disclosure forms released Monday.Ivanka Tr...
Published: 06/11/18
Supreme Court allows Ohio voter purge

Supreme Court allows Ohio voter purge

WASHINGTON ó The Supreme Court is allowing Ohio to clean up its voting rolls by targeting people who havenít cast ballots in a while. The justices rejected, by a 5-4 vote Monday, arguments that the practice violates a federal law intended to increase...
Published: 06/11/18