ORLANDO, Fla.-Florida Hospital, a seven-hospital system, was sued last week in Orange County Circuit Court by 35 uninsured patients over its billing practices, said K.B. Forbes, who helped with the filing as head of advocacy group Consejo de Latinos Unidos. Forbes, who worked with local civil rights attorney Matthew Dietz on the suit, said it was filed with the goal of getting Florida Hospital to change its pricing for the uninsured. In response, Richard Morrison, vice president of government relations for Florida Hospital, said: "I don't know how anybody can allege we don't have favorable policies to the uninsured." The system offers discounts to uninsured patients who earn up to 400% of the federal poverty level on a sliding scale, Morrison said. Forbes said additional suits are planned against other Florida hospitals.
WASHINGTON-The District of Columbia and Howard University officials reached a preliminary agreement last month to co-finance a $400 million hospital that could open within three years on the site of the former D.C. General Hospital, which closed in 2001. The district and the university each would contribute $200 million. The university would lease the site for $1 a year and operate the 230-bed National Capital Medical Center. The District of Columbia Hospital Association said its members are analyzing the proposal to determine its impact.
FARMERS BRANCH, Texas-Metrocrest Hospital Authority issued a "request for qualifications," due March 18, to begin the process of negotiating new leases for its two hospitals-135-bed RHD Memorial Medical Center in Farmers Branch and 137-bed Trinity Medical Center in Carrollton, Texas. Metrocrest President Charles Heath said the authority wants more say in the hospitals' operations than it has under the current lease arrangement with Tenet Healthcare Corp., which is set to expire in August 2007. Metrocrest will issue a request for proposals to qualifying organizations. Tenet spokesman Steven Campanini said the system would participate in hopes of maintaining management of the hospitals.
AUSTIN, Texas-A proposal in the Texas Senate would prevent providers in some cases from billing patients for the difference between the providers' charges and the "usual and customary rates" paid by an insurer, a practice described as "balance billing." The proposal would apply to out-of-network providers caring for a hospital patient initially treated by a network provider. The Texas Hospital Association opposes the legislation but not the need to address the issue of balance billing, said Charles Bailey, the association's general counsel. The association is working on alternative ways to address balance billing without some of the problems in the current bill, Bailey said.
HOUSTON-Methodist Hospital and the University of Houston System signed a 30-year agreement last month to collaborate on biomedical research and clinical care. The effort will combine Methodist's experience in medical science with the university's expertise in basic science, said Stefanie Asin, a Methodist Hospital spokeswoman. The two will share technology and facilities in biomedical research and jointly develop health-service and education programs, according to a statement from the organizations. The groups already have collaborated, including a project that paired a Methodist Hospital neuroradiologist with a professor from the University of Houston to study blood flow and its effect on the likelihood of a stroke, Asin said. The arrangement doesn't change Methodist's primary academic affiliation as a teaching hospital for Weill Cornell Medical College. Last year, Baylor College of Medicine dropped Methodist as one of its primary teaching hospitals.
CHEROKEE VILLAGE, Ark.-A new foundation formed by community members agreed to buy shuttered 40-bed Eastern Ozarks Regional Health System last month for $4 million, intending to reopen the facility as a 25-bed critical-access hospital, said Jay Torbit, chairman of the buyer, Sharp Medical Foundation. The county may increase local taxes to support a bond issue for the purchase and hospital rehabilitation projects of roughly $1.5 million, Torbit said. The purchase is pending a 90-day inspection and evaluation period, he said. White River Medical Center, Batesville, Ark., which opened an urgent-care center in Cherokee Village after the hospital closed, agreed to be a minority partner in the critical-access hospital, Torbit said. For-profit Associated Healthcare Systems, Brentwood, Tenn., also showed an interest in Eastern Ozarks after it closed last December on the brink of receiving a notice of termination of Medicare participation.
MOULTON, Ala.-Attentus Healthcare Co., Franklin, Tenn., late last month completed a lease agreement to acquire its second hospital-Lawrence County Healthcare Authority's hospital in Moulton. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The 37-bed hospital, formerly operated under a lease by Baptist Health System, has been renamed Lawrence Medical Center. As part of the purchase agreement, Attentus promised to build a replacement hospital. Attentus said the replacement would have about 40 beds and cost about $20 million. The company will need state regulatory approval before it can build. Privately held Attentus recently acquired its first hospital, 77-bed Scott County Hospital, Oneida, Tenn., by taking over a lease from Community Health Systems. Attentus has a pending deal with Community to acquire three more hospitals-including two in Alabama.