Florida Gov. Rick Scott Seeks Consumer Input on Hospital ‘Price Gouging’
By Dr. James Palermo // October 22, 2015
Florida Governor Rick Scott, who is focused on fostering transparency in the hospital industry, announced that his state Commission on Healthcare and Hospital Funding is now calling on patients to submit, using an on-line process, information related to experiences that they perceive to involve hospital overcharging for services or “price-gouging.”
“We want to hear directly from Floridians who have suffered from this unfair practice so we can better empower patients to fight against price-gouging at Florida hospitals,” Scott’s office said in a statement.
The announcement from the governor’s office came as the commission, created by Scott this year, met at the Capitol in Tallahassee.
The commission has been tasked to investigate finances of hospitals with a focus on how taxpayer supported hospitals use Medicaid dollars.
Scott’s aim is to require the same level of transparency and financial disclosure among publicly supported hospitals that is required of private or publicly traded hospitals.
However, there is concern among some industry critics that the commission is merely a kangaroo court organized by the governor.
SCOTT FOCUSED ON HOSPITAL PRICE, PAYMENT TRANSPARENCY
Early this month, Scott called for state lawmakers to pass legislation during next year’s session that would, in his words, “increase transparency for Florida hospitals and empower patients to fight against hospital price gouging.”
Scott’s proposals center around requiring hospitals to post certain information on their websites, including their prices and average payments for products and services provided, and data related to performance on certain quality metrics that would be agreed upon by the State Consumer Health Information and Policy Advisory Council.
In addition, Scott proposed requiring tax-exempt hospitals to post their annual financial reports to the IRS online, which include information on executive compensation and lobbying spending.
Further, in a news release the governor said that patients should “have the ability to ask for a third-party review of their charges.”
“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.
“Most Florida hospitals receive state taxpayer dollars,” he added. “We must not use state money to subsidize hospitals [that] are charging our citizens unfairly high prices for services they receive, often during a time of personal crisis.”
ANTAGONISM BETWEEN SCOTT AND HOSPITAL INDUSTRY HEATING UP
The Florida hospital industry has disputed Scott’s assertion of “price-gouging,” and this most recent proposal brought a swift response from the Florida Hospital Association (FHA).
According to Bruce Reuben, the president of the FHA, Scott has not engaged his organization in discussions related to the governor’s “transparency” proposals.
“The best way to truly empower patients, and to understand what drives costs, is to bring everyone in the health care continuum to the table,” said Rueben. “By utilizing data from all health care claims, a comprehensive database would provide meaningful information about health care quality, costs and access.”
Rueben said that there’s a big difference between high prices and so-called price gouging, and that the governor’s allegations of price gouging “are completely unfounded.”
HOW TO SHARE YOUR STORY
If you think you may be a victim of hospital overcharging, the avenue for filing a consumer complaint to the Florida Commission on Healthcare and Hospital Funding is: www.healthandhospitalcommission.com/pricegouging