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Lawmaker Files Bill Favoring Trauma Centers Run by HCA, Gov. Scott’s Former Company

| February 27, 2014

Where to? (ffsetla)

Where to? (ffsetla)

After more than two years of legal and political wrangling in the hospital industry, a Senate proposal would overhaul the way Florida approves trauma centers and could ensure that three disputed trauma facilities remain open.

The proposal, filed this week by Sen. Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring, could short-circuit a debate about how the Florida Department of Health determines where new trauma centers should be allowed to open.

It also would allow trauma centers in operation on July 1 to remain open — a proposal that likely would ensure the continued operation of trauma facilities at Blake Medical Center in Manatee County, Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point in Pasco County and Ocala Regional Medical Center in Marion County. Those hospitals have been at the center of the ongoing legal battles.

The proposal (SB 1276), filed a week before the start of the annual legislative session, could touch off a fierce lobbying battle.

The changes would help the HCA health-care chain, which has opened the trauma facilities at Blake Medical Center, Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point and Ocala Regional Medical Center and has sought to open trauma centers elsewhere.

(HCA, the largest private hospital chain in the country, is the corporation formerly headed by Gov. Rick Scott, a position he resigned in 1997 when the company was under a fraud investigation. HCA was later to plead guilty to 14 felonies  subsequent to findings that HCA had defrauded the federal government through Medicare over-billing and engaged in kick-back schemes in some markets, pushing doctors to refer patients to its hospitals. The company settled suits at a cost approaching $2 billion. Though Scott was the chief executive of the company during the period investigated by the Justice Department, he was never charged with any wrongdoing.)

Green-lighting trauma centers whether they’re needed or not.

But trauma-center proposal likely will draw opposition from major hospitals in the Tampa Bay, Jacksonville and Gainesville areas that have battled HCA and the Department of Health about new trauma approvals.

HCA attorney Stephen Ecenia said Wednesday the company would support Grimsley’s bill. HCA has argued, in part, that allowing more trauma centers would better meet the needs of injured patients in various parts of the state.

“I think it (the bill) presents a clear path to moving forward,” Ecenia said.

But Mark Delegal, general counsel for the Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida, which represents public and teaching hospitals that have long operated trauma centers, said his group thinks current laws offer a proper balance for determining whether needs exist for new trauma centers.

Delegal described the part of the bill that would ensure the continued operation of the disputed HCA trauma facilities as the “big enchilada.” Also, he said a “proliferation” of trauma centers would reduce the volume of patients going to the highly specialized facilities, which could ultimately affect quality of care.

Grimsley’s bill became public Tuesday afternoon, just hours after the Department of Health finished a hearing about a proposed rule that would determine how many trauma centers would be allowed in 19 separate areas of the state. It was apparent during the hearing that the hospital industry was divided about the proposal, raising the specter of additional litigation if the department ultimately adopts the rule.

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A major part of the trauma debate stems from court decisions in 2011 and 2012 that the department used an invalid rule in approving the trauma centers at Blake Medical Center, Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point and Orange Park Medical Center in Clay County. The Orange Park trauma facility later closed for other reasons, but the department also allowed Ocala Regional to open a trauma facility.

The HCA trauma centers have been challenged by Tampa General Hospital, St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa, Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg, UF Health Shands Hospital in Gainesville and UF Health Jacksonville. Ongoing litigation poses a threat to the continued operation of the trauma facilities at Blake Medical Center, Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point and Ocala Regional Medical Center.

Grimsley, who was out of her office Wednesday and also could not be reached by email, is an influential lawmaker on health-care issues, serving as chairwoman of the Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee. A trauma bill has not been filed in the House, though a proposal is expected to emerge.

The Grimsley proposal would designate varying numbers of potential trauma centers in 18 separate areas of the state, a slight variation from the Department of Health’s proposed 19 areas. The divvying up of trauma centers is a key part of the legal challenges in recent years, with the Tampa Bay, Jacksonville and Gainesville hospitals arguing that decisions should made based on seven domestic-security task force regions — rather than the 19 areas.

The bill makes numerous other legal changes, including the provision that trauma centers would be able to remain open if they operated continuously for a 12-month period and if they are in operation July 1, the date the measure would take effect.

–Jim Saunders, News Service of Florida, and FlaglerLive

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7 Responses for “Lawmaker Files Bill Favoring Trauma Centers Run by HCA, Gov. Scott’s Former Company”

  1. A.S.F. says:

    I am sure Governor Scott has been keeping his hands totally clean on this one. Not.

  2. confidential says:

    No business with such and entity that paid 2 billions in fines and “because they were caught” defrauding Medicare. I yet do not understand how come Rick got Scott free instead of jail.
    R. Scott, Chris Christie and Scott Walker the cream of the GOP governors crop!
    Fraudulent deals planned, proposed and executed to benefit misusing/wasting our hard earned taxes allover Florida including Flagler County and Palm Coast. Real Mafioso style! So better get out and vote.
    The latest shame is receiving robo calls from tea partier DeSantis demanding registered Reps to unseat House speaker Bohener..? Not that I am a fan of the guy…but shows us the rabid teabaggers conservatives started early, their all out war to win more seats and further destroy America.
    Mrs. Beaven where are you please try again and run we need you in this county versus an unknown legislating and caring for wealthy Pontevedra and too preoccupied to not only unseat a President elected by the people, but his own party elder. Looks like he is also a member of the TX Cruz yfing club.

  3. Merrill Shapiro says:

    This is one more manifestation of the culture of corruption Rick Scott has brought to Tallahassee! How did we come to embarrass ourselves by electing this guy?

  4. Flatsflyer says:

    The “Fraudster” is setting himself up for a return to HCA after he gets beat in November. HCA should be banned from ever running any health related activity based on previous criminal activity. Scott was the head of HCA and took the 5th 75 times. He should have gone to jail rather than screwing up the State of Florida.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Republicans…they are a piece of work aren’t they? Could this corruption be ay more blatant?

  6. A.S.F. says:

    I can only assume that the Florida Senate believes that their Republican supporters will blindly follow them, no matter what, and that everyone else can go to h*ll.

  7. Raul Troche says:

    HCA and Rick Scott-free should both be blacklisted from doing any government work.

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