Gov. Scott, Legislature Explore Health Care Transparency

Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Legislature have found common ground on one important issue that impacts most residents, protection from price gouging at health care facilities.

With the legislative session set to open Tuesday, a pair of Republicans, Rep. Chris Sprowls and Sen. Rob Bradley, are sponsoring bills requiring further transparency on costs.

The House and Senate bills, which were officially announced on Monday, come as a commission appointed by Scott is set to make its presentation on health care transparency before a House Select Committee on Affordable Healthcare Access on Friday.

"When patients go to get medical services they should have information from the very start on how much it is going to cost,'' said Bradley, of Fleming Island. "We are trying to change those days of walking out to the mailbox and getting a bill that you never expected that changes your family's outlook forever.''

The bills and commission would require health care providers to post estimates on a variety of conditions and what procedure is needed. Both think that the easiest way to do that is on the Web.

The website could be similar to when consumers select their health care plans. They could start by looking up their health problem or procedure, which would list price averages and ranges. That could be broken down to where things are itemized by physician services, tests, procedures and post-surgery therapies or rehabilitation.

Scott's Commission on Health Care and Hospital Funding was formed last spring. According to a study by The Washington Post last year, 20 of the top 50 hospitals where patients are gouged the most are in Florida. Pennsylvania is a distant second with seven.

In 2014, the Institute for & Socio-Economic Policy at National Nurses United found that Florida was second in average markup of hospital list prices over actual costs of providing care.

One of the findings of Scott's commission states: "Not only were the patients not in a free market when treatment was needed, they were not in a free market when they received their hospital bills. In a free market, the patient would have the right to not accept an inflated, fixed price set arbitrarily and unilaterally by the hospital.''

Both legislators acknowledged that these actions might not lower patient costs, especially if they have to travel, but Sprowls does think it will lead to consumers being more informed about their choices.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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