Thursday, April 19, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Stand for patients, not profits

Florida lawmakers should not be tinkering with the state's trauma center rules to benefit a politically active hospital chain before they are sure that the centers and their competitors are not gouging trauma patients. Gov. Rick Scott and the Legislature should stand with vulnerable Floridians and their families, not special interests that engage in exploitative pricing and preach about the public good to gloss over their focus on profit.

Earlier this week, a House committee voted 8-4 to inject the Legislature into a hospital industry fight over trauma centers. It approved a bill that would ensure three controversial trauma centers opened by the Hospital Corporation of America in recent years, including Pasco County's Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point, would remain open even in the face of a legal challenge from competing hospitals. Rather than risk the outcome of litigation, the for-profit HCA is trying to persuade lawmakers to rewrite state law to ensure their trauma centers stay open and pave the way for more.

The committee vote occurred just days after a Tampa Bay Times investigation revealed HCA is the worst offender when it comes to charging extraordinary trauma center response fees that have no relationship to actual costs. Reporters Letitia Stein and Alexandra Zayas discovered that the six HCA trauma centers in Florida have charged an average trauma response fee of $28,000, more than three times higher than the average fee at the state's 19 other trauma centers. No hospital contacted by the Times could justify the cost drivers for the fee. One even lowered its $10,000 fee by $6,000 after being quizzed by the Times. (The Medicare reimbursement rate for the fee is just under $1,000.) HCA's overall average billing was nearly 50 percent higher than the average at other trauma centers.

But instead of quizzing HCA on its pricing policy, House Health Innovation Subcommittee Chairman Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford, urged his colleagues to ignore it and called it a "separate issue." The governor also is in denial, telling reporters he's for transparency and choice in health care — apparently unwilling to consider that a trauma patient may be unconscious and has no say over where he is treated or what services he receives.

HCA has countered that like any hospital, what it collects in fees is very different from what it bills due to negotiated rates with private insurers. It also trumpets improved health care access in communities. But Stein and Zayas found evidence that at least two major insurers were paying HCA more than other hospitals — costs that can mean higher private insurance premiums for all Floridians.

The wisest counsel so far in Tallahassee came from the sole Republican committee member who voted against the HCA bill. Rep. Doc Renuart, a Ponte Vedra Beach physician, said he saw no wisdom in having politics decide trauma center sites.

He's right. Lawmakers should focus on correcting the issues at trauma centers, not finding ways to circumvent state rules and the courts to benefit one hospital chain. Legislators should give regulators new tools to rein in unjustifiable and exploitative trauma response fees and stop injecting more politics into the fight over the future of HCA trauma centers.

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Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Anyone looking to make Hillsborough County government bigger, costlier, more dysfunctional and less of a regional force should love the idea that Commissioner Sandy Murman rolled out this week. She proposes enlarging the seven-member board to nine, e...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

A new foster care provider in Hillsborough County is poised to take over operations in May, only months after its predecessor was fired for what was alleged to be a pattern of failing to supervise at-risk children in its care. Many of the case manage...
Published: 04/18/18

Another voice: Back to postal reform

President Donald Trump is angry at Amazon for, in his tweeted words, "costing the United States Post Office massive amounts of money for being their Delivery Boy." Yet in more recent days, Trump has at least channeled his feelings in what could prove...
Published: 04/17/18
Updated: 04/18/18
Editorial: Congress should protect independence of special counsel

Editorial: Congress should protect independence of special counsel

A bipartisan Senate bill clarifying that only the attorney general or a high-ranking designee could remove a special prosecutor would send an important message amid President Donald Trump’s attacks on the investigation into Russia’s inter...
Published: 04/16/18
Updated: 04/17/18
Editorial: Don’t fall for Constitution Revision Commission’s tricks

Editorial: Don’t fall for Constitution Revision Commission’s tricks

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission has wasted months as a politically motivated scam masquerading as a high-minded effort to ask voters to improve the state’s fundamental document. The commission on Monday added amendments to the Nove...
Published: 04/16/18
Editorial: Redner’s court win on medical marijuana sends message

Editorial: Redner’s court win on medical marijuana sends message

Florida regulators have done far too little to make voter-approved medical marijuana widely available for patients suffering from chronic illnesses. A circuit court judge in Tallahassee ruled last week there is a price for that obstruction, finding t...
Published: 04/15/18
Updated: 04/16/18
Editorial: Hillsborough commission should quit expanding urban area

Editorial: Hillsborough commission should quit expanding urban area

Any movement on modernizing local transportation is welcome, even small steps like the million dollars the state recently approved to design a Tampa Bay regional transit plan.But the region won’t make any progress on transportation, its single most p...
Published: 04/13/18
Updated: 04/18/18

Editorial: Fight harder on citrus greening

A new report by scientists advising the federal government finds no breakthrough discovery for managing citrus greening, a chronic disease killing Florida’s citrus industry. This should be a wake-up call to bring greater resources to the fight.The re...
Published: 04/11/18
Updated: 04/13/18

Editorial: Floridians should focus more on health

A new snapshot of the nation’s health shows a mixed picture for Florida and the challenges that residents and the health care community face in improving the quality of life.Americans are living longer, exercising more and doing better at managing th...
Published: 04/11/18
Updated: 04/13/18
Editorial: 5 key issues where Scott, Nelson differ in Senate race

Editorial: 5 key issues where Scott, Nelson differ in Senate race

Gov. Rick Scott kicked off his U.S. Senate campaign last week by reciting tired lines about career politicians and mischaracterizing himself as an outsider. That pitch may have worked during the tea party wave eight years ago, but now the Republican ...
Published: 04/10/18
Updated: 04/13/18