Insult to injury and Trauma payday | March 9-10
Prices high, quality of care diluted
It is truly despicable when a health care corporation such as HCA blatantly gouges injured people transported to their new trauma centers. To make matters worse, they attempt to pass the costs on to insurance companies in clear violation of Medicare/Medicaid reimbursement rules. And their profit-driven undertaking only serves to dilute the quality of care available under a statewide regional trauma care network.
Studies have shown that the skills and knowledge required of the specialized staff to maintain and improve trauma care must be routinely practiced. This only happens in a system that licenses, monitors and works with providers to improve the science of trauma medicine. Of course, the number of trauma centers should meet the demands for service. But having too many in close proximity to one another is counterproductive and not cost effective. More is not necessarily better.
Florida has in place a functional trauma care program. Granted, it is in need of some improvements. But recent reviews of the state system clearly identified its many strengths and several weaknesses. Strong and specific recommendations were made to guide the system to the next level medically and administratively. Improving the system at hand will continue to ensure that people injured in Florida will get the best trauma care available. Allowing the money grabbers into this system will only undermine the scientific requirements that create the foundation of quality trauma care.
C. Duncan Hitchcock, New Port Richey
Insult to injury and Trauma payday March 9-10
Repeated bad behavior
Over 30 years ago a friend of mine in the health care field predicted that the trend toward for-profit hospitals would either degrade the quality of health care or dramatically increase the costs of services to the public. In reading your trauma center articles, it appears that at least one of these predictions was right on the mark.
HCA hospitals have been in the news for over a decade for one instance after another of fleecing either the public, insurance companies, the government or in all too many cases all three. In the 1990s, Florida hospitals from Port Charlotte to Largo were accused of billing fraud or worse. It is no stretch of the imagination that the tactics taught and instituted at HCA hospitals by our present governor are continuing to be followed by his corporate successors throughout the hospital chain.
It is amazing to me that such antics are allowed by regulators who continue to "look the other way" when it comes to price gouging by health care facilities.
In the area of health care finance, the fixed costs of services such as found in these trauma centers are directly related to the number of procedures performed. This was demonstrated many years ago with the controversies connected to the advent of CAT scan procedures. Adding additional sites in the Tampa Bay area will only increase prices for all if the number of procedures do not increase by at least 40 percent by the addition of these facilities. As usual, the consuming public is the loser, and the legislators, lobbyists and providers are the winners.
David M. Fletcher, Tampa
Hospital or nightclub?
It was an inspiring story about how HCA has used out-of-the-box thinking to make their hospital emergency rooms more profitable by copying the business model of nightclubs and imposing a trauma response fee, a.k.a. cover charge. I look forward to pole dancers in the waiting room.
George Howlett, Tampa
Red-light cameras out | March 7
Keep an eye on safety
Now that the St. Petersburg mayor and City Council have followed the will of the residents by halting the red-light camera program, the burden is on the traffic engineers to correct the conditions that contribute to people running red lights.
First, synchronize the traffic lights wherever possible. This area is largely unsynchronized and there are many times when one car will activate a red light on a busy road. When traffic lights are timed properly, drivers have an incentive to go the speed limit as they will make the green lights, sometimes for miles.
And, as a Times' reader has written, the opposing red light at an intersection could be delayed by a second after the yellow light changes to a red, thus delaying cars going into an intersection.
I trust that Mayor Rick Kriseman and staff will keep an eye on this situation, as we have made real progress with traffic safety and red-light violators.
Rand Moorhead, St. Petersburg
Limit campaign funding
Couldn't all of the money spent on the Pinellas congressional campaigns be put to better use? Political campaigns should not be funded by businesses or other wealthy donors looking to buy a seat in Washington.
The political process needs an overhaul. We need to limit campaign funding from business interests and wealthy donors. Maybe a better solution is to fund campaigns through the general fund of political parties where all candidates get the same amount of campaign money. The candidates would need to campaign the "old-fashioned way" — by appearing in public, meeting the voters and directly answering the hard questions that are of concern to us, the people they will take an oath to represent, not their campaign donors.
Ken Gagliano, Clearwater
Gun issues raise voices in Capitol | March 11
Prescription for escalation
Regarding the Florida Legislature's pending bills to expand the parameters of "stand your ground," I hope our law makers read Boise State biology professor Greg Hampikian's thoughtful and timely piece, "When May I Shoot a Student?" reprinted recently in the Times.
Further clarification of Floridians' Second Amendment rights is warranted. For instance, regarding theater etiquette breaches, is rattling cellophane wrappers sanctioned? What about coughing fits or gum snapping?
Gail A. Reynolds, Dade City