Hospital Rate Allegations

Florida hospitals are on the defensive Tuesday. A coalition of Hispanics and other minorities contends that hospitals discriminate for profit, charging people without insurance more than people with it.

"I came to this country with a lot of dreams. I had an American boy. I'm very proud of this country, believe me. All my dreams went down," says Carmen Laconcha, who owes $100,000 in medical bills.

The Council of United Latinos says that Carmen Laconcha is a perfect example of the kind of person exploited by hospitals and they're making those allegations in ads like, “They'll charge an Hispanic without insurance $18,000 for the same exact care. Great deal huh?”

The head of the Council of United Latinos, K.B. Forbes, says charging the uninsured more is a form of discrimination.

"The vast majority of those that are being gouged are middle class minorities and we're here to tell the Florida Hospital Association to stop protecting their members and start doing something to change this,” Forbes says.

The Florida Hospital Association disputes the charges of price gouging. They say Florida hospitals provide a billion and a half dollars of free care every year, and they say the true price gouging is the spiraling cost of health insurance premiums.

Richard Rasmussen, the Florida Hospital Association spokesperson, says, "Thousands, tens of thousands of people receive free care in our facilities and we would like to ask the insurance industry to step forward and show us examples where they have offered free premium or free discounted insurance coverage to small businesses and individuals.”

Tallahassee Memorial flatly denies any rate discrimination and points out it provided $18 million in free medical care last year. We have no response yet from Capital Regional Medical Center.