Future of transparency bill not so clear

Jan 25, 2012

The following article was published in The Florida Current on January 25, 2012:

Future of Transparency Bill Not So Clear

By Christine Jordan Sexton

Doctors, urgent care clinics and ambulatory  surgical centers would have to make available to patients how much certain procedures cost under a bill OK’d Wednesday.

The House Health & Human Services Quality Subcommittee met Wednesday and tagged a strike-everything amendment onto the measure before passing it by a 10-5 vote. 

Tucked into the transparency requirements in the bill is a prohibition on balance billing by hospital-based providers, such as anesthesiologists, who work in hospitals that have contracts with insurance companies.

Sponsored by Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-New Port Richey, CS/HB 1329 requires diagnostic imaging centers and ambulatory surgical centers  to publish a schedule of charges for the 50 most common medical services and treatments. It also requires doctors to distribute in writing a schedule of the top 50 medical charges, process to be repeated each patient visit. Doctors who violate the rule are subject to disciplinary action.

The strike-everything amendment would prohibit hospital-based health care providers from billing insured patients for emergeny care within 24 hours of being in an accident so long as they were transported by emergency medical transportation services. 

Additionally, hospital-based providers are prohibited from balance billing patients for nonemergency medical care provided in hospitals that have contracts with insurers if the patient has no choice but to use that hospital-based provider. Those providers must disclose to the patient in writing an estimate of the amount to be billed. If the actual amount billed directly to the patients is 200 percent above the quoted prices, the provider is prohibited from balance billing.

If an urgent care center is owned by a hospital it must post information that notifies the patient whether the charges for medical services at the center will be the same as, more than or equal to the charges received at the hospital’s emergency department.

The bill is supported by the insurance industry.

Its future may be shaky, though, given the fact the Senate Health Regulation Committee just hours later rejected a similar proposal. Committee Chairman Rene Garcia acknowledged that there are concerns among providers and asked members to allow him to introduce the proposed committee bill. 

“It’s important we find ways to remove the patient from disputes between providers and insurers,” Garcia said.

The committee voted 4-3 not to introduce the bill.

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