Florida's governor wants hospitals to provide more pricing data

Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R), who had a contentious relationship with the state's hospitals, wants them to cough up more information that would benefit their patients.

Scott wants hospitals to disclose their prices for procedures, how much insurers pay them and their financial data. But he also wants a mechanism in place that would allow patients to contest a bill if they believe they have been unfairly charged, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported. Scott intends to propose the changes during next year's legislative session.

Scott's proposal comes just a few months after he launched an investigation into hospital charges in relation to the state's Medicaid program. Scott's administration convened the Commission on Healthcare and Hospital Funding, which then asked for financial information that could potentially be used to try and extend a special funding program for the state's Medicaid program. The hospitals have grudgingly complied at best.

But he is not alone with his concerns about the bills that patients receive. Politicians in several states have proposed laws to address surprise bills. The Los Angeles Times recently reported an incident where a patient who was supposed to have been charged $500 to receive an injection was actually charged nearly $4,000. The patient had no recourse, although the provider reversed its decision only after the newspaper published the story. 

However, other states have launched healthcare price comparison tools of their own. The most recent is California, which introduced a pricing site last month operated by the state Department of Insurance in conjunction with Consumer Reports and UC San Francisco. However California's Healthcare Compare website only provides pricing based on geography, not for specific hospitals.

Massachusetts mandates that hospitals and other providers furnish specific prices on request, although studies have suggested that compliance has been lax. 

Despite the battles between hospitals and Scott in Florida, the healthcare organizations said they would work to introduce more information for patients. "Florida hospitals have long been public in our support for a responsible approach to transparency. We are committed to securing meaningful policy that ensures our patients and their families are able to make informed healthcare decisions," Florida Hospital Association President Bruce Rueben told the Times-Herald.

To learn more:
- read the Herald-Tribune article
- check out the Los Angeles Times article