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Hernando hospitals charging inflated prices

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A recent study released by National Nurses United, shows that Florida hospitals are among the most expensive in America, and 2 on the Top 10 list are in Hernando County.

Top 10 Most Expensive Hospitals in the U.S.
(by total charges as a percent of total costs)

1- Meadowlands Hospital Medical Center, Secaucus, NJ – 1192%
2- Paul B. Hall Regional Medical Center, Painsville, KY – 1186%
3- Orange Park Medical Center, Orange Park, FL – 1139%
4- North Okaloosa Medical Center, Crestview, FL – 1137%
5- Gadsden Regional Medical Center, Gadsden, AL – 1128%
6- Bayonne Medical Center, Bayonne, NJ – 1084%
7- Brooksville Regional Hospital, Brooksville, FL – 1083%
8- Heart of Florida Regional Medical Center, Davenport, FL – 1058%
9- Chestnut Hill Hospital, Philadelphia, PA – 1058%
10- Oak Hill Hospital, Spring Hill, FL – 1052%

So, what makes Brooksville Regional and Oak Hill hospitals among the most over-priced in the country?

On Tuesday, Susan Frimmel, Systems Marketing Director for Bayfont Health North Florida responded to price gouging claims on behalf of Brooksville Regional Hospital via email:

We are committed to providing our patients with great care in the most efficient way we can. Looking at charge data in isolation does not take into account a full picture of the complex reimbursement environment in which all hospitals must operate. When considering the vast services provided to our patients, the revenue we actually collect is reasonable. Realistically, all hospitals only collect a small percentage of charges.

However, all hospitals do not charge such a high multiple of actual costs. Brooksville Regional has been price gouging their patients at a rate of 1,083 percent and they rank 7th on the list of most expensive US hospitals.

Oak Hill Hospital Director of Marketing, Richard Linkul was also asked to comment on why Oak Hill charged about 10 times more than actual costs, and how much of it was being billed to taxpayers through Medicare.

Linkul replied in an email on Wednesday:

What patients pay has more to do with the type of coverage they have than charges. Government programs like Medicare and Medicaid determine how much they reimburse hospitals. Insurance plans negotiate their payments. Everyone else is eligible for our charity care program or they receive our uninsured discounts, which are similar to the discounts a private insurance plan gets.

Oak Hill inflates their charges by 1,052 percent, placing them 10th on the list of most expensive hospitals in America.

There may be some clues as to why Hernando County hospitals are facing claims of price gouging. Whether or not they might be tied to Medicare billing abuse is unclear. But Florida has had issues with Medicare fraud in the past.

During the 1990’s, the FBI discovered fraudulent billing for Medicare and Medicaid at Hospital Corporation of America. Gov. Rick Scott was the CEO of HCA at the time. Two other company officials were convicted of fraud and company was fined $1.7 billion. Scott resigned but was not criminally charged.

According to Census data, 26.8 percent of Hernando County residents are seniors, which is higher than the state average of only 18.2 percent. Could there be a connection between hospital price gouging and Medicare abuse? Or are Florida hospitals simply trying to maximize their profits no matter who is billed some of the highest rates in the country?

Whatever is at the root of the problem, health care costs are soaring. In 2010, hospital charge-to-cost ratios were increasing at just 1 percent. In 2011, that rate increased to 17 percent. And in 2012 it rose to 22 percent, according to IHSP calculations of Federal Hospital Cost Reports FY 1996-1997 through 2011 through 2012.

The US is the only industrialized country on earth that allows private, profit-based companies to run its health care system and it remains the most expensive in the world.

For Hernando County residents, inflated prices at Oak Hill and Brooksville Regional hospitals do not guarantee better health care, just more expensive care than almost anywhere else in America.

Sources and more info:

FACT SHEETS BY STATE:

Why U.S. Health Care Is Obscenely Expensive, In 12 Charts

New Data – Some Hospitals Set Charges at 10 Times their Costs

Medical Price Gouging and Waste Are Skyrocketing

Author’s note: The opinions and commentary included in this report are based on the author’s original reporting and independent analysis of official documents and public information

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