Florida should require transparency in health care costs

March 27, 2014 

Blake Medical Center in Bradenton has a Level II trauma unit. PHOTO PROVIDED.

Health care costs should be as transparent as every other consumer product. There is nothing magical about medicine that should prevent a patient from knowing up front what the bill will be.

Nobody would purchase a house, car or food without seeing the price, yet Florida patients usually accept physician and hospital charges with little question.

A new Miami Herald report ranks Florida among 44 other states that lack laws requiring transparency on a public-access website to provide consumers with this vital information.

Health care costs bankrupt countless Americans annually. We're sheep to the slaughter, mindlessly accepting whatever the fee is and not demanding justification for charges. How many times have we heard about a single aspirin pill costing $30 in a hospital emergency room?

This week's Herald report cited a study from two nonprofits, California-based Catalyst for Payment Reform and Connecticut-based Health Care Incentives Improvement Institute. The organizations ranked consumer access to health care costs in every state. Florida allows patients to be kept in the dark.

One aspect of the egregious nature of medical costs has caught the attention of Florida's Legislation this session, with a Senate committee passing a bill to cap certain fees.

One of those restrictions places a $15,000 limit on trauma response charges, That chops the average fee from Hospital Corporation of America centers such as Blake Medical Center down from $28,000, the highest in Florida.

With consumers paying more health care costs through higher insurance premiums, deductibles and more, pricing information is vital. Hospitals and physicians charge different rates, some far higher than others but with similar outcomes. Consumers should be aware of this.

Cost information has been traditionally been kept secret with confidentiality agreements among doctors, hospitals and insurers, but that denies the public valuable information.

Only five states require publicly accessible databases on medical costs. Floridan should join this group and pass a stronger law unlocking all the secrets so consumers are well informed.

The state does have some statutes on price transparency but full disclosure would serve the public best.

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