In Alleged Health Care 'Money Grab,' Nation's Largest Hospital Chain Cashes in on Trauma Centers
The "trauma center" designation - which is conferred by state or local regulators, often with standards verified by the American College of Surgeons - can lead to substantial reimbursements, including "activation" fees billed on top of charges for medical care. Patients at some HCA Healthcare trauma centers report receiving substantial trauma team activation fees - some reaching $50,000 per patient.
One patient at HCA's Chippenham Hospital in Richmond, Va., said his bill for a gash on his arm topped more than $52,000, including a $17,000 trauma team activation fee and three CT scans billed at $14,000. Claims consultant WellRithms, which analyzed the charges for Kaiser Health News, said the man's care — which required 30 stitches but was not life-threatening — should have cost about $3,500. Trauma centers have become a key part of HCA's growth and profit-generating plan, corporate officials have said, and the company now has trauma centers in many of its 179 hospitals. In Florida, data analyzed by KHN reveal the number of regional trauma cases and costly trauma bills increased substantially after HCA opened trauma centers there.
Indeed, researchers previously reported that patients admitted to for-profit hospitals in Florida with trauma team activation were much more likely to have only mild to moderate injuries compared with those at not-for-profit hospitals. For its part, HCA says its trauma care expansion makes higher-level care available to a greater number of patients, providing "lifesaving clinical services while treating all critically injured patients," a company spokesperson said. Hospitals also note the trauma team activation fees are important to help cover the overhead of having a team of elite emergency specialists ready to go.
Read more at Kaiser Health News.