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Health care cost transparency bill passes Senate budget panel

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Health care price transparency legislation favored by Gov. Rick Scott cleared the Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee Thursday by a 6-2 vote.

SB 1496, sponsored by Fleming Island Republican Sen. Rob Bradley, would have the Agency for Health Care Administration set up an online system to compare medical procedure prices at hospitals and surgery centers, and require medical facilities to provide itemized bills for services.

The bill also aims to make timely responses to billing questions law and would require insurance providers to detail what costs are covered for procedures at in-network and out of network hospitals. Insurers would also have to link their customers to AHCA performance and cost data for procedures they are researching.

“I am grateful to Senator Bradley for spearheading this legislation which Governor Scott has identified as a priority for our state and pleased to see it continue to advance through our Senate Committees,” Senate President Andy Gardiner said. “Patients in need of medical treatment deserve to know how much they should reasonably expect to pay for particular services. This bill will make that information more readily available and also includes penalties for those entities who would charge unconscionable prices to Floridians in need of medical attention.”

An amendment offered by Naples Republican Sen. Garrett Richter cleaned up the penalty provisions, which are set as the greater of $2,500 or double the the amount a patient is overcharged for a procedure. The bill also directs the Department of Financial Services consumer advocate to investigate patient complaints of price gouging and, if necessary, mediate payment negotiations between patients and health care providers. Bradley’s bill now moves to the full Senate Appropriations Committee, its last stop before the Senate floor.

A similar price transparency bill in the House, HB 1175 by Clearwater Republican Rep. Chris Sprowls, made it through the Select Committee on Affordable Healthcare Access with a unanimous vote last week and is now in the House Healthcare Appropriations Subcommittee.

SB 1496 originally included provisions that would have given tax credits to insurance companies and customers that share procedure cost data with AHCA, but those provisions were removed to bring the bill more in line with Sprowls’ bill.

Drew Wilson covers legislative campaigns and fundraising for SaintPetersBlog and FloridaPolitics.com. While at the University of Florida, Wilson was an editor at The Independent Florida Alligator and after graduation, he moved to Los Angeles to cover business deals for The Hollywood Reporter. Before joining Extensive Enterprises, Wilson covered the state economy and Legislature for LobbyTools.

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