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Opinion

Stop 'Profiteering' From Trauma Care

The woman who in 2002 paved the way for U.S. hospitals to charge trauma response fees says she never imagined that it would become "a back-door way for some hospitals to profiteer."

Connie J. Potter, writing for the Tampa Bay Times, says that what has happened in Florida is outrageous. As the Times has been reporting, trauma centers in Florida have been ratcheting up the fees that are tacked on to already-high emergency bills to unsuspecting patients.

For-profit HCA hospitals have boosted those fees -- which amount to a cover charge for coming through the door -- and the Legislature is considering bills that would limit them to $15,000.  HCA announced last week that it would not charge the fees to uninsured patients.

Potter says she was the one who, a dozen years ago, applied to the National Uniform Billing Committee of the American Hospital Association to give hospitals the right to charge trauma center response fees. Her intent  she said,  was to support the extra costs that trauma centers -- at that time, mostly non-profit hospitals that trained residents -- were incurring in keeping staffing and materials ready for quick turnaround.

But she says Florida has distorted that. The “unregulated proliferation, politicizing and profiteering of trauma care is threatening to dismantle Florida's entire trauma system and undermine a vital pipeline for training surgeons,” she said.