The House also approved bills that require parental consent for a minor’s abortion, create new health care facilities for recovery and preempt local barriers to employment
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida House of Representatives today passed legislation across partisan lines, 116-1, to end predatory medical billing practices. HB 959 requires medical bill estimates before services are provided, protects patients by requiring hospitals to establish a billing appeals process, and stops predatory debt collection for patients facing steep medical bills. HB 959 is now headed to the Senate for a vote.
“Last year, we eliminated Certificate of Need, and this year we’re still working on expanding scope of practice to improve access. But today, we passed important legislation that will end predatory medical billing. Hospitals should not be allowed to report a patient to collections and damage their credit over an unexpected bill,” House Speaker Jose Oliva said. “Today’s victory marks another key step toward achieving our goal of total patient-centered health care reform for Floridians. We are proud to be the most health-care reform minded Legislature in America.”
Current law requires all hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers and urgent care centers to provide each patient a good-faith estimate of charges prior to providing any non-emergency medical services – but only upon patient request. HB 959 would make these estimates mandatory and binding unless unforeseen circumstances or the provision of additional services result in the need for additional charges. If so, those charges must be explained in writing.
The legislation also requires health care facilities to establish a billing appeal process for patients, and it prohibits facilities from sending a patient to collections without checking to see if they qualify for financial aid or while the patient is waiting for an itemized bill. It would also exempt the following from medical debt collection:
a vehicle valued at $10,000 or less and
personal property valued at $10,000 or less (if the debtor does not claim or receive a homestead exemption).
The House also approved a bill that protects the rights of parents to help their minor daughter make a life-or-death decision. SB 404, which passed the House 75-43, prevents an underage girl from getting an abortion unless a parent or guardian consents. It is now headed to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ desk for signing.
“A child cannot simply tell their parents they are going on a field trip or even playing a school sport,” the main sponsor for the House bill (HB 265) Rep. Erin Grall said. “So, why would we accept that a child can simply inform their parents they intend to have an abortion? This bill gives a child the support system she needs when she is in her most vulnerable state. The parent is the best-equipped person to offer advice, support, and make decisions in the best interest of their daughter. I am deeply thankful for my fellow lawmakers who have voted to put families and life first today.”
Contrary to some reports, the bill makes exceptions for minors who may not able to obtain parental consent; including and especially if she’s a victim of child abuse or incest, then she would not have to obtain consent from her abuser:
The judicial waiver process is available to any minor who feels she needs to bypass the parental consent requirement.
The internet provides an abundance of resources on Florida’s current judicial waiver process for parental notice, which has a high success rate. In 2018, 182 of 193 petitions for this judicial waiver were granted, or 94 percent.
The court struck down a prior parental consent statute because of problems with the judicial waiver process. SB 404 corrects those problems by employing a revised waiver process like the one for parental notice that has been upheld and in place for the past 14 years.
Some detractors of the bill claim it infringes on a minor’s right to privacy to seek an abortion. During Wednesday’s floor debate, Grall said a minor’s right to privacy is not unfettered; it must be balanced against the rights of parents. Both Florida and the U.S. Supreme Courts have said states can restrict the rights of children to obtain abortions because of their vulnerability, inability to make critical decisions in an informed and mature way, and because of the important parental role in child rearing.
Among other bills, the House approved HB 827 in an 81-36 vote. The bill makes way for a new kind of health care facility in Florida – recovery care centers. This is a safe, logical and more personal recovery option for people who need post-surgery care but don’t want to stay in a hospital.
The House also passed HB 3, 78-40 across partisan lines, which stops local licensing restrictions and makes regulations for occupational licensing uniform so that skilled workers like painters and tilers can work across all counties and cities without paying local fees or taking local tests.
“Thank you to all who helped take a good bill and make it better,” HB 3 sponsor Rep. Michael Grant, House Majority Whip, said. “We are freeing up the workforce so they are not impeded by excessive regulations and can put food on their tables.”