Patients sue HCA over emergency room 'cover charge'

Ayla Ellison (Twitter) - Print  | 

Three patients who received emergency care at hospitals operated by HCA Healthcare are suing the Nashville, Tenn.-based company for allegedly billing them and other emergency room patients a "cover charge."

In their lawsuit filed May 15, the patients allege they were hit with an emergency room fee after receiving care at HCA hospitals in Florida. They claim the surcharge is not disclosed to patients before care is provided.

"Knowledge of this undisclosed surcharge, which is essentially a 'cover charge' or 'surcharge' for being seen in one of defendants' emergency rooms, would be a substantial factor in an emergency care patient's decision to remain at the hospital and proceed with treatment or seek less costly treatment elsewhere," states the complaint.

According to the complaint, one of the plaintiffs received emergency care at Poinciana Medical Center in Kissimmee, Fla., and was later billed for an undisclosed surcharge of $3,935. Another plaintiff was hit with a $1,642 surcharge after receiving emergency care at Palms West Hospital in Loxahatchee, Fla. A third plaintiff claims a surcharge was sprung on him after his minor dependent received emergency care at Fort Walton Beach (Fla.) Hospital, but the complaint doesn't state the amount of the alleged surcharge.

The plaintiffs filed the proposed class-action lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida on behalf of themselves and others who were provided care at emergency rooms operated by HCA Florida or its affiliates during the last four years. The plaintiffs allege that HCA violated Florida's Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act by billing patients for the emergency room surcharge.

In an emailed statement to Becker's Hospital Review, a spokesperson for Poinciana Medical Center said the hospital will defend itself against the allegations.

"Similar claims were filed by these plaintiffs and previously dismissed by the Federal District Court in Orlando," the spokesperson said. "We believe we have appropriately disclosed our charges and complied with the law. We will continue to defend ourselves against these allegations."

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