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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

House, Senate, Gov. Scott's hospital transparency plans could be opportunity for compromise



Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island and Rep. Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, on Monday unveiled a hospital price transparency proposal they say will “empower the patient to become the consumer,” in hopes of cutting costs of health care.

In a session when members of the House and Senate likely won’t agree much on health care policy, price transparency could prove to be a point of compromise for both chambers, as well as Gov. Rick Scott.

“Those are all important issues, but this is something we can do to improve the lives of everyday Floridians and families and do it together and come to a consensus on it,” Bradley said.

Proposals from the House (HB 1175), Senate (SB 1496) and governor’s office aim to require that hospitals publish information about the costs of certain procedures.

“What this bill is about,” Bradley said, “is information. A consumer, wherever they live in Florida, needs to have information.”

But the Sprowls, Bradley and Scott proposals differ in how they achieve that transparency. Scott wants an all-payer claims database, that would bring together price information from private insurers, as well as Medicaid providers. Bradley and Sprowls would require Medicaid providers to hand over Florida claims data to the Agency for Health Care Administration.

Scott also says there’s a big piece missing from the House and Senate’s proposals: The ability to criminally charge hospitals that demand unreasonably high payments.

“The governor believes that any legislation that does not strictly prohibit hospitals from price gouging patients – through tough penalties and clear legal definitions – simply does not go far enough,” Scott spokeswoman Jackie Schutz said in a written statement last week. “Too many in Florida have been a victim of hospital price gouging and the Governor is committed to bringing that to an end.”

There isn’t much appetite in the Legislature to make price gouging criminal. Sprowls’ proposal doesn’t include any penalties for excessive charges. Bradley’s would allow the insurance consumer advocate to fine hospitals that charge “unconscionable prices.”

“The real priority is to empower the patient to become the consumer. That is what we’re going to see drive quality in health care,” Sprowls said. “Sen. Bradley and I are two of the few members of both chambers that have been prosecutors, that sat in front of juries and know what that looks like. That is not where we’re trying to go.”

Mary Beth Vickers, policy coordinator of Scott’s Office of Policy and Budget, will make the governor’s case at a Friday meeting of the House Select Committee on Affordable Health Care Access. She’s expected to make this point in a PowerPoint presentation: “Price gouging is a morally reprehensible practice that victimizes individuals in their most vulnerable moments. In no scenario is price gouging more frequent, more extreme or more reprehensible than when a patient is at a hospital.”

[Last modified: Monday, January 11, 2016 12:25pm]


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