State bill would let people choose less expensive medical facilities

Reporter: Anika Henanger
Published: Updated:
Expensive medical bill. (Credit: WINK News)
Expensive medical bill. (Credit: WINK News)

New hospitals and fewer regulations, but some said a new bill could put your health at risk.

A trip to the hospital means dollars out of your pocket when you are likely to need them the most.

But what if you did not have to stay at a full-service hospital even for a surgery?

Pamella Seay, an attorney and professor of law at Florida Gulf Coast University, said every procedure would be more expensive at a full-service hospital.

But, instead of knee or back surgery at a full-service hospital, the person can go to a specialty hospital or a smaller surgical care center.

Two bills in the legislature would allow for more boutique hospitals and enable patients to stay overnight at an ambulatory surgical center.

“Number one,” Seay said, “it might be a way to control cost.”

But unlike many specialty care centers, major hospital systems like Lee Health serve any patient who walks through its door regardless of his or her ability to pay.

“We receive no tax support,” said Dr. Lawrence Antonucci, president and CEO of Lee Health. “In order to operate, we operate strictly on patient revenue. So for that reason, we have to have paying patients so they can take care of the patients who can’t pay.”

Seay, who once served on the board of a hospital, said in those smaller care centers there is often less of a chance of infection or disease spreading and they could unclog the system.

If the bill passes, patients will have the choice between a specialty care facility or a full-service hospital in just a few years.

“We’re very concerned about what the amendment might mean for patient safety,” Dr. Antonucci said. “If they’re inclined to take care of more complicated patients without necessary quality oversight that normal hospitals have to follow.”

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