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HCA Trauma-Center Bill Builds Steam

Three hospital trauma centers owned by HCA Healthcare and at the heart of a legal dispute could remain open according to a bill that passed the House Health Innovation Subcommittee on Tuesday.

The three centers - Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point in Pasco County, Bradenton’s Blake Medical Center and Ocala Regional Medical Center - would be allowed to continue operating based on the bill, (PCB HIS 14-01), which passed by an 8-4 vote, the News Service of Florida reports.

The bill also could open the door for the reopening of an HCA-owned trauma center in Orange Park, the Florida Times-Union reports. Orange Park Medical Center operated a trauma center from 2011 until February 2013, when the Florida Department of Health closed it for failing to meet state standards.

All of these trauma centers have been part of a bitter, three-year lawsuit between the state’s older, non-profit trauma centers. They also are owned by HCA, which the Tampa Bay Timesreported this week, charges about $40,000 more in hospital bills than other facilities (paywall alert).

The investigation, however, was not part of Tuesday’s debate. After the hearing, Rep.Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford, said the need for trauma centers and the fees they charge are “separate conversations,” according to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Gov. Rick Scott, a former HCA executive, also dodged the issue, the Herald-Tribune reports. When asked about the vast disparity in trauma fees charged across Florida, Scott said, “I want to make sure that it’s transparent, people know what it’s going to cost them,” then declined to elaborate or clarify his statement, the Herald-Tribune reported.

Originally founded in December 2006 as an independent grassroots publication dedicated to coverage of health issues in Florida, Health News Florida was acquired by WUSF Public Media in September 2012.