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Hospitals would be required to provide cost and risk data

Hospital patients would be guaranteed price and risk information about various procedures and low-income patients without insurance would get discounts under two different measures lawmakers will take up this spring.

A coalition of business groups and the state's Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services supports a bill that would require the Agency for Health Care Administration to make prices and data about the risk of certain hospital procedures available to patients who want it. The idea is to enable patients to shop around when considering health care.

"Each of us would expect similar disclosure from an auto repair shop," said Rick McAllister, CEO of the Florida Retail Federation, one of the groups pushing the bill.

Businesses say they support the bill (HB 701), sponsored by Sen. JD Alexander, R-Lake Wales, and Rep. Donna Clarke, R-Sarasota, because they think it will help drive down health care costs.

The bill would require that patients who ask be provided information on rates of mortality, infection, complications and readmission for certain nonemergency procedures.

The measure also would allow health insurance companies to appeal charges on hospital bills.

The Florida Hospital Association is generally supportive of providing cost and outcome data _ hospitals already give the data to the state.

But hospitals oppose the section allowing for appeals of charges by insurers, said FHA senior vice president Ralph Glatfelter.

"We would totally oppose the idea that the insurer has a unilateral right to challenge what we charge," Glatfelter said, noting that there's already a dispute process for when insurers disagree with a charge. "That's just more bureaucracy and paperwork."

Glatfelter said any hospital will review charges with patients.

Another measure filed Thursday would require Florida hospitals to offer discounts to uninsured patients seeking emergency room treatment or having a baby.

Under HB 715, sponsored by Rep. Marcelo Llorente, R-Miami, and Sen. Durrell Peaden, R-Crestview, families meeting certain income requirements would be guaranteed 30 percent discounts.