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House passes, Senate delays, balance billing ban that pits providers against insurers

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Doctors and insurers battled over balance billing in the Florida Legislature on Tuesday.

While the House Appropriations Committee advanced a bill, CS/HB 681 by state Rep. Carlos Trujillo, which would prevent insured patients from being balance billed by providers for emergency care and place into statutes reimbursement options, the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee took a pass on the companion bill, SB 516.

Hospitals and doctor groups opposed the House bill but it was supported by the Florida Association of Health Plans.

Florida Medical Association lobbyist Jeff Scott said the bill “relieves” patients of a “defective insurance product they have purchased” but also establishes an arbitrary fee schedule on physicians’ services.

Scott said there is a better way to solve the problem, one that treats everyone fairly.

Office of Insurance Consumer Advocate Steve Burgess said his “singular concern” is to prevent balance billing from negatively impacting the insured patient.

“We want to get the consumer out of the middle of it,” Burgess said.

Florida Association of Health Plan President and Chief Executive Officer Audrey Brown said Floridians buy PPOs for “flexibility” and that in an emergency situation insured patients don’t have a choice of whether to receive care in or out of network.

While the bill enjoyed broad support, many of the members who supported the measure told bill sponsor Trujillo that he needed to continue to work with the healthcare providers to try to assuage their concerns.

While the House passed the bill, the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee took a pass on SB 516. Bill sponsor state Sen. Aaron Bean told the committee on Tuesday that the bill needed additional work and asked that the committee temporarily to defer the bill.

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