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Rob Bradley, Chris Sprowls publicly float health care transparency bill

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A pair of Republican lawmakers told reporters Monday they intend to ensure the days of unaccountable hospitals and insurers gouging Florida patients with staggering, unforeseen medical bills “are over.”

Rep. Chris Sprowls Palm Harbor and Sen. Rob Bradley of Orange Park likened the consumer predictability they seek for consumers to that of patrons at a gas station or grocery store, with prices plainly stated right up front.

“There’s really not too many places in our country anymore where someone can come in and play by the rules, plan well for their family’s future, go in for a medical procedure, and end up bankrupt,” said Sprowls.

Sprowls and Bradley, both former prosecutors, sang in perfect harmony in front of the Senate chamber door a day the Legislature officially convenes for Session on Tuesday.

But the duo’s proposals – HB 1175 and SB 1496 respectively – have a long way to go. Once the partisan, inter-chamber, and inter-industry food fights begin. That became clear even as initial public discussions began in Tallahassee.

The legislators both praised Gov. Rick Scott and his Commission on Healthcare and Hospital Funding, whose investigations into the murky milieu gave rise to the Sprowls-Bradley proposal.

But Scott and his office have said the bill does not go far enough. The governor would like more comprehensive reform, complete with criminal penalties for those who shirk the bill’s prohibition against “unconscionable” rates for care .

Bradley said point was one of the “slight” differences between the House and Senate versions of the health care proposal.

“The Senate bill does address price gouging and present civil penalties. But I will tell you – and Rep. Sprowls and I are of like mind on this – in the Senate, the idea of creating new crimes… is really not something that we’re focused on,” said Bradley, hinting at an early sticking point between among Republican leaders, which have been common particularly on health care issues.

“Making these alleged actions criminal would not be something that’s in our appetite,” said Bradley. “We’re not trying to tell people to do something, we’re trying to incentivize people to become part of the team.”

The pair accentuated the positive on Monday morning, however.

“I think the fact that the representative and I are here today to introduce this concept is indicative of the cooperation that we feel personally as well as the House and Senate, and Governor’s Office quite frankly, to make sure we do something meaningful on this issue,” said Bradley responding to prodding over legislative differences. “Those are all very important issues, but this is something we can do to improve the lives of everyday Floridians, and come to a consensus.”

Ryan Ray writes about campaigns and public policy in Tampa Bay and across the state. A contributor to FloridaPolitics.com and before that, The Florida Squeeze, he covers the Legislature as a member of the Florida Capitol Press Corps and has worked as a staffer on several campaigns. He can be reached at ryan@floridapolitics.com.

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