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News & Press: Legislative News

Scott assails 'price gouging' at hospitals

Tuesday, September 29, 2015   (0 Comments)
Posted by: DCMS
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By Jim Saunders
The News Service of Florida

THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, September 28, 2015.......... Gov. Rick Scott on Monday said he will push a series of proposals targeting "price gouging" in the hospital industry, including a proposal that would require hospitals to post online the prices and average payments for services they provide.

The proposals, which Scott said he will ask the Legislature to approve, are the latest in a series of moves by the governor --- who made millions of dollars as a hospital-company CEO --- to try to revamp the industry.

"The high cost of health care continues to hurt some of our most vulnerable families in Florida, and the best way to guard against unfairly high hospital costs being passed on to patients is to require hospitals to be fully transparent with their own costs and patient charges,'' Scott said in a news release.

But Bruce Rueben, president of the Florida Hospital Association, said his group is working on proposed legislation that could help increase transparency in the health-care industry. Rueben said he was disappointed in Scott's statements Monday and said the governor never talked with the association before releasing the proposals.

"It doesn't help the discourse to make mean-spirited accusations that are completely unfounded," Rueben said.

Rueben said "we all want to see" health care become less expensive and added it is understandable that people are concerned about a wide disparity of charges for services. But he took issue with Scott's characterization of price gouging.

"The fact is, there's a big difference between high prices and so-called price gouging,'' Rueben said.

Scott in recent months has repeatedly taken aim at costs and regulations in the hospital industry. In part, he created the Commission on Healthcare and Hospital Funding, which has held hearings across the state to delve into the operations of hospitals. Scott's news release Monday came as members of the commission met in Tampa.

The Scott administration this summer also requested information from hospitals about Medicaid managed-care contracts with health insurers and said it would audit hospitals that didn't adequately comply with the request. In addition, Scott has raised the possibility of eliminating what is known as the "certificate of need" process for hospitals. That longstanding regulatory process requires state approval of new or expanded hospitals.

The proposals outlined Monday include requiring all hospitals to post on their websites the prices and average payments received for products and services that they offer. Also, Scott called for patients to be able to pursue complaints of hospital "price gouging" with law-enforcement and regulatory agencies. Another move would require non-profit hospitals to post on their websites Internal Revenue Service documents that include detailed financial information.

"With our proposed reforms, patients who believe their hospital bills are unconscionably high will have the ability to ask for a third-party review of their charges,'' Scott said. "We must address the high costs hospitals pass on to patients if we are going to make health care more affordable and accessible in Florida."