Emergency room bills are usually high—and sometimes higher than patients realize. In this class action, the complaint alleges that HCA Healthcare, Inc. imposes a surcharge for emergency room visits, in addition to charges for the actual services provided, that it does not tell patients about at the time of their emergency room visit.
The class for this action is the individual financially responsible for any patient who, between May 15, 2015 and the present, received treatment at any of the emergency room facilities in Florida of the defendants in this case, and for whose treatment an emergency room fee was billed in addition to the charges for the individual items of treatment and service provided.
HCA Healthcare, which does business as HCA Florida, is one of the largest private healthcare providers in Florida, operating roughly fifty hospitals and emergency rooms there. These include the other defendants in this case, Poinciana Medical Center, Inc., Fort Walton Beach Medical Center, Inc., Palms West Hospital, LP, and North Florida Division I, Inc.
The complaint says that all of these medical centers and hospitals charge for individual services in their emergency rooms, but they also impose a general emergency room surcharge, or a kind of “cover charge,” for emergency room visits. The complaint alleges that none of them reveal this surcharge to patients even though it “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.”
The complaint charges that the medical locations named above give a Conditions of Admission and other contract documents to persons who present themselves for emergency room treatment and require that they sign them. Nowhere in these documents, the complaint alleges, is the emergency room surcharge disclosed, nor is it posted anywhere where the patients might see it.
The surcharge is not fixed but set at one of five levels, and the method for determining the level charged is also not disclosed to patients.
For example, Nathan Haviland, one of the three plaintiffs in this case, presented himself to Poinciana’s emergency room for treatment on October 23, 2016. He claims he received no notice of the surcharge, either verbally or in any of the papers he signed for admission. The gross amount billed to him for his visit was $23,865.59. This included a surcharge of $3,935.25—a substantial portion of the charges.
The complaint brings suit under Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act.