HCA Healthcare hit with class action suit over surprise 'surcharge' fees in Florida ERs

HCA Healthcare
HCA Healthcare has been hit with a class action suit in Florida. (HCA Healthcare)

HCA Healthcare is facing a class action lawsuit that alleges it charged exorbitant, undisclosed “surcharge” fees to patients who visited the emergency department at several of its Florida hospitals. 

The lawsuit, which was filed earlier this year in the Southern District of Florida, names three HCA hospitals in the state—Poinciana Medical Center, Fort Walton Beach Medical Center and Palms West Hospital—and alleges that three patients who visited their emergency departments were hit with the fees by surprise, the Miami Herald reported

In one case listed in the suit, a Missouri man visiting Kissimmee, Florida, went to Poinciana’s ER and was billed $23,865, of which $4,000 was a surcharge. The defendant said he was not notified verbally or in the admission contract about such a fee, according to the article. 

RELATED: One reason surprise billing solutions are so tricky for hospitals 

A spokeswoman for HCA Healthcare told the newspaper that its hospitals properly disclosed charges and noted that a similar lawsuit also filed in Florida had been dismissed. 

HCA has filed a motion to dismiss this suit as well, which is pending and is scheduled for a hearing next month. 

News of the lawsuit comes as surprise billing has dominated the healthcare headlines over the past several months. Congress is scrutinizing the issue closely, and providers and payers are squaring off on the most effective solution. 

The emergency department is a common site for surprise billing to occur, as a patient may not be able to choose an ED that is in-network in an emergency, and many EDs are staffed with contract physicians who may not be covered by a patient’s insurance. 

Providers favor a surprise billing solution that uses “baseball-style” arbitration to setting disputes, while payers are instead pushing for an approach that would set rates for out-of-network providers.