Florida Legislature moves toward ‘trauma drama’ fix

A bill to deal with hospital trauma centers drew plenty of debate in waning hours of legislative session.

Herald/Times Tallahassee BureauMay 2, 2014 

— In the waning hours of their annual session, legislators at last appeared poised to take up the matter of how to protect three disputed HCA trauma centers from legal action that threatened to close them.

In addition to clearing the way for trauma centers at Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point, Blake Medical Center and Ocala Regional Medical Center to remain open, the measure creates a one-year $15,000 cap on trauma activation fees, a one-year moratorium on new trauma centers and an advisory committee to make recommendations for approving new trauma centers.

At around 10 p.m., the House approved an amendment filed by Rep. Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford that lumped the trauma measure together with so many other health care proposals, House Speaker Will Weatherford chanted “choo-choo’’ to alert members that this was a particularly long legislative train. Brodeur’s amendment was filed at 7:55 p.m. just as onlookers began to wonder if the “trauma drama” fix found in a handful of bills wouldn’t make it to the finish line.

Originally, HB 7105 focused on rulemaking changes for nursing homes and updates to the state’s organ donation program. But the Senate got a hold of it this week and added a number of its priorities. However, the Senate had yet to concur with the amended bill as of press time.

Here’s what the bill would do:

• Grandfathers three HCA-owned trauma centers, create a one-year moratorium on new centers and cap activation fees at $15,000 for one year.

Requires health insurance policies to cover orthotics and prosthetics.

Creates an exemption to state law to allow UF Health Jacksonville to open a new hospital in north Duval County.

Allows physician assistants to perform laser skin resurfacing.

Assisted living facilities reforms championed in the Senate.

Allows ambulatory surgical centers to keep patients for up to 24 hours after a procedure.

Limited grandparent visitation rights.

Updates the state group health insurance plan to require new types of coverage and a variable pricing structure beginning in 2017.

Clarifies the types of deaths that medical examiners are required to investigate.

Revises requirements for HIV testing.

Requires pneumonia vaccines for new nursing home residents.

The fee cap, moratorium and advisory committee were added after a Tampa Bay Times investigation found hospitals across the state were charging huge admission fees to trauma patients, and the highest charges were at HCA facilities.

Tia Mitchell can be reached at tmitchell@tampabay.com

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