Florida’s ‘trauma response fee’ exceeds Medicare’s $1,000 price tag

Trauma centers are intended to take care of problems that the emergency room may not be able to handle.

Whenever someone experiences an injury from a shooting or car accident, they aren't always taken to the hospital's emergency room. In these situations, they would be transported to a trauma center. These departments are usually hidden within the emergency room wing, but equipped with high-quality medical equipment and experienced medical staff to sustain dire injuries.

Across Florida state, there are 25 trauma centers to choose from, the Tampa Bay Times reported. Fees in the Sunshine State largely ranged from $10,000 to $28,000 per visit — regardless of the severity of the injury. The news source found that these figures significantly jumped from 2006's average of $2,555 per visit, even though Medicare recommends all trauma centers to charge no more than $1,000 per visit.

Typically, trauma response fees are intended to alleviate the cost of on-call staff members and pay for the necessary expenses to keep the trauma center open 24 hours per day. However, it turns out that more practices were charging high prices to keep up with hospital chains like the Hospital Corporation of America (HCA). HCA by far has the highest fees and with six trauma centers, it controls a significant portion of the market.

"Providing trauma services requires highly specialized teams of caregivers, equipment and processes that have to be available 24/7," J.C. Sadler, HCA spokeswoman, said in a statement. "Our activation fees directly reflect the actual cost in each community of mobilizing these resources for patients who receive trauma care."

One of the most troubling findings is that a significant portion of trauma cases weren't life-threatening, where many patients didn't stay in the facility overnight but still had to pay the same fee as someone who endured threatening injuries.

This puts patients in the position to pay thousands of dollars out of pocket, but due to exorbitant costs they might decide to ignore the bill altogether. This happens all over the United States, where many patients in trauma centers may not have the resources to offset the cost.