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Are Florida Hospitals Price Gouging?
Robby Shaul

By: Robby Shaul on October 2nd, 2015

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Are Florida Hospitals Price Gouging?

Price Transparency

Florida Governor Rick Scott thinks so and he wants to add legislation to put an end to it.

rick_scott

On Monday, Scott announced a plan to make hospital pricing more transparent and fight what he perceives to be “price gouging.”

Florida is now under the price transparency microscope. Among the 50 hospitals in the United States with the highest markup of prices over their actual costs of providing care, 20 are in Florida – the largest of any state. The state also received an ‘F’ grade from the Healthcare Incentives Improvement Institute related to price transparency laws (although only five states received a passing grade).

Scott is a former hospital executive and has been vocal about change, including challenging the state Senate on expanding Medicaid.

He wants to empower Florida citizens to fight against unfair hospital prices by requiring hospitals to post their prices and average payments, along with their annual IRS reports, in an easily accessible location on their website.  He is also proposing to create additional protections for Florida patients by allowing the referral of any suspected hospital price gouging to the appropriate law enforcement agency or regulatory authority.

To empower patients and increase transparency at Florida’s hospitals, he proposes the following:

  • Update the existing law governing the FloridaHealthFinder.gov website with the aim of helping consumers estimate their expected out-of-pocket expenses and chances of experiencing adverse incidents while at a specific healthcare facility.
  • Require all hospitals to post on their website in a prominent location the prices and average payments received for all products and services offered, along with performance on patient quality measures agreed upon by the existing State Consumer Health Information and Policy Advisory Council.
  • Create new protections against unconscionable prices to include all products and services rendered to a patient during a medical emergency or other course of medically essential treatment.  With this policy, patients can refer complaints of price gouging at hospitals and surgical centers to the appropriate law enforcement agency or regulatory authority for investigation and potential prosecution.
  • Require tax exempt hospitals, which do not pay property or income taxes, to post their annual financial reports (Form 990) to the IRS online. IRS Form 990 contains detailed information on the filing of an institution’s programs and finances, such as executive compensation, lobbying expenditures and revenue. Under current law, only investor-owned hospitals (privately run) are required to do this and the Governor would expand this requirement to every hospital in the state, including not-for-profit institutions.

As you can imagine, this has been met with a lot of mixed reaction. Bruce Reuben, president of the Florida Hospital Association, called the accusation of price gouging “mean spirited.”

This appears to just be the beginning and it will be interesting to see how this evolves.

What is your take on the issue?