Advertisement
  1. Florida Politics

Senate committee approves measure to protect trauma centers, cap fees

Published Mar. 26, 2014

TALLAHASSEE — After rushing through public testimony and debate, a Senate committee approved a bill that protects three HCA-owned trauma centers but also caps the activation fees they can charge patients.

The Senate's Health Policy Committee approved SB 1276 with a 7-2 vote, with one Republican and one Democrat in opposition. The bill allows trauma centers at Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point in Pasco County, Blake Medical Center in Manatee County and Ocala Regional Medical Center in Marion County to remain in operation despite legal challenges by hospitals.

It also creates a one-year, $15,000 cap on trauma response fees in Florida and establishes a one-year moratorium on new trauma centers. A yearlong investigation by the Tampa Bay Times found that HCA's average trauma response fee — a charge meant to offset the cost of high-tech care — is $28,000, by far the highest in the state.

HCA has 25 registered lobbyists in Tallahassee to represent its interests, but on Tuesday some testimony on its behalf came from Ocala officials and residents speaking up for their hospital. None of them expressed any concern about costs.

The company now has five Florida trauma centers and wants to open more.

It is unclear how the Senate bill's moratorium would affect those plans.

Also, HCA's Orange Park Medical Center was forced to close its trauma center in February 2013 because it fell short of state standards. The Senate bill could help that center to reopen, a lobbyist for safety net hospitals argued.

"The language here today very likely could grandfather in Orange Park, a trauma center that has been reviewed and determined by the agency not to meet the quality standards that you enacted," Mark Delegal said.

Sen. Rene Garcia, R-Miami, accused Delegal of spreading misinformation about the Orange Park hospital, but the lobbyist countered that he was only pointing out loopholes in the bill. Sen. Denise Grimsley, the Sebring Republican who authored an amendment creating the fee cap and moratorium, said the intent is not to allow Orange Park to skirt the rules. She said she would be willing to address Delegal's concerns, but the committee didn't entertain any changes during the meeting.

The dissenting votes were cast by Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, and Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa.

Joyner criticized the size of the trauma fees, saying "they run the gamut from ridiculous to super ridiculous." She also said it would be wrong to increase the number of trauma centers in Florida, both because of cost and because too many centers would dilute the quality of care.

"We don't need that many trauma centers," she said. "There has got to be another way."

Bean said he disagreed with the Legislature stepping in while court cases were pending and state agencies were still considering the disputes. "There are just so many questions still surrounding trauma, but it passed," he said after the vote.

The three HCA centers are being challenged by long-standing trauma centers, including Tampa General Hospital, that contend the state acted improperly in allowing them to open.

Grimsley said she hopes the bill can help end the costly court battle.

The House's version, HB 7113, solely focuses on the grandfathering issue and doesn't have the moratorium or cap on fees. Rep. Amanda Murphy, D-New Port Richey, said she hopes the House version will be amended to mirror what the Senate has done.

Contact Tia Mitchell at (850) 224-7263 or tmitchell@tampabay.com.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. U.S. District Judge Mark Walker speaking during 2016 graduation ceremonies at the Florida State University College of Law. [Florida State College of Law] Florida State College of Law
    The ruling, if it’s not overturned, means that President Donald Trump will not automatically be first on the 2020 ballot in Florida.
  2. FILE - In this Aug. 1, 2019, file photo, Donald Trump Jr. speaks before the arrival of President Donald Trump at a campaign rally at U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File) JOHN MINCHILLO  |  AP
    University of Florida student body president Michael Murphy received a resolution for his impeachment Tuesday. Then the state’s Republican Party started an online petition and fundraiser.
  3. The U.S. Attorney's Office in Pensacola.
    Prosecutors say Farm Service Agency director Duane E. Crawson, 43, of Bonifay, led a conspiracy to get his friends, family members and acquaintances to recruit others to submit false applications for...
  4. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks at the Panama City City Hall on Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019. His wife Casey DeSantis is pregnant with the family's third child. He joked that the family will have to transition from "man-to-man to zone defense." (Joshua Boucher/News Herald via AP) JOSHUA BOUCHER/ THE NEWS HERALD  |  AP
    The federal judge had ordered that 17 felons not be removed from the voter rolls before a lawsuit goes to trial next year.
  5. In this Nov. 12, 2019 file photo, Roger Stone, a longtime Republican provocateur and former confidant of President Donald Trump, waits in line at the federal court in Washington. MANUEL BALCE CENETA  |  AP
    Roger Stone, a longtime friend and ally of President Donald Trump, was found guilty Friday of witness tampering and lying to Congress about his pursuit of Russian-hacked emails damaging to Hillary...
  6. The Capitol is seen in Washington on. Impeachment hearings for President Donald Trump come at the very time that Capitol Hill usually tends to its mound of unfinished business. J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE  |  AP
  7. This March 7, 2016, file photo shows the Trump National Doral clubhouse in Doral. WILFREDO LEE  |  AP
    A party spokeswoman confirmed to the Miami Herald Thursday that the annual event, to be held over several days in late January, will take place at Trump National Doral Miami, located near Miami...
  8. Ross Spano serving in the Florida Legislature in 2017. The Dover Republicans 2018 campaign for Congress is now under federal investigation. SCOTT KEELER  |  Times
    The House Ethics Committee revealed the Dover Republican is under federal investigation for possibly violating campaign finance law.
  9. Student activists with the March For Our Lives group, founded after the Feb. 2018 Parkland shooting, hold a banner that promotes their new "peace plan" to prevent gun violence, while demonstrating in the rotunda of the state capitol building in Tallahassee. Emily L. Mahoney | Times
    The 18-year-old student director of March for Our Lives Florida said school shootings are so common they are “not shocking” anymore.
  10. Gov. Ron DeSantis greets local officials at Dunedin High School on Oct. 7, 2019, part of a swing around the state to announce his plan to boost starting teacher pay in Florida to $47,500. He revealed a related teacher bonus plan on Nov. 14 in Vero Beach. MEGAN REEVES  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The new plan would replace the controversial Best and Brightest model that DeSantis had called confusing.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement