'Transparency' Backed in Senate Amid Questions

Feb 1, 2016

A Senate budget panel last week approved a bill that seeks to increase transparency about health-care costs, but the measure drew pointed questions from some lawmakers.

The bill (SB 1496), sponsored by Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, comes after Gov. Rick Scott has spent months accusing hospitals of engaging in "price gouging" --- an allegation that the hospital industry refutes.

The bill, approved Thursday in a 6-2 vote by the Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee, includes requiring the state Agency for Health Care Administration to contract for an Internet platform that would allow consumers to research health services and compare prices.

"Information empowers,'' Bradley said. "That's true in all sectors of our economy, and there's no reason it can't be true in the health-care sector of our economy."

But Sen. Denise Grimsley, a Sebring Republican who voted against the bill, said the state already has a website, FloridaHealthFinder.gov that allows similar comparisons. She said that instead of trying to improve that website, lawmakers could be "reinventing the wheel" with the bill.

Grimsley, who was joined in opposition by Sen. Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale, said she also is concerned the measure could put a burden on small rural hospitals. The bill is now ready to go to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

A House health-care transparency bill (HB 1175), filed by Rep. Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, has been approved by one committee.