Updated: Feb 28
The House also approved bills that help stop harmful hospital monopolies, improve price transparency in heath care and more
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Feb. 26, 2020) – After taking a significant step toward ending surprise medical bills last week with HB 959, the Florida House of Representatives today passed additional patient-centered health care reforms through several pieces of legislation now headed to the Senate for consideration. Among these include changes to ensure that patients have access to their medical records and information about health care costs, and certainty that the government will shut down harmful hospital monopolies.
"The market will drive down costs if we empower patients with the information they need to make informed and responsible medical decisions," House Speaker Jose Oliva said. "That means holding health care providers and insurance companies accountable for predatory billing practices and responsible for making medical records and pricing information available. Floridians deserve better health care, and the Florida House is working hard to make sure they get it."
Requesting medical records should be a straightforward process for patients; unfortunately, that is not always the case. The Florida House voted 106-8 to pass HB 1147, which standardizes the time frame that health care providers and facilities must produce records and empowers patients to control their own records in the form most convenient for them. If the provider has an electronic health records system, it must make records accessible through a web-based portal or personal electronic health record.
Under the legislation, each health care practitioner and facility must:
Produce all requested records in their possession within 14 working days.
Allow inspection of all records in their possession within 10 working days.
"Today, the majority of health care providers use electronic health records that can be produced instantly," said HB 1147 bill sponsor Rep. Bobby Payne, R- Palatka. "Two weeks to produce records digitally, or even in print, is plenty of time. What is unfair is making people wait extended periods of time for their records, especially if those records are needed for treatment."
Health care providers have some flexibility in discussing costs with patients, but there may be cases when a provider's contract with an insurer limits communication about the cost of care. The Florida House voted 115-0 to pass HB 1205, which prohibits a health insurer or HMO from restricting any provider from discussing pricing information with a patient -- safeguarding a patient's right to open communication with providers about costs of care.
HB 1205's provisions apply to all state-regulated health plans, including health insurance policies, small and large group policies, and HMO coverage contracts. The bill also prevents an insurer or HMO from requiring an insured patient to pay more than an uninsured patient for a health care service.
"As health care expenses continue to rise, most health insurers are asking consumers to take on a greater share of their costs by increasing premiums and out-of-pocket payments," said HB 1205 bill sponsor Rep. Anthony Rodriguez, R-Miami. "People should know the cost of their medical services, and they should be able to easily compare to make the best decision for themselves at a price they can afford."
According to one study , prices increase by more than 14% when a hospital acquires a physician practice; for specialty physician practice acquisitions, prices increase 15% to 33.5%. On Wednesday, the House voted 114-0 to pass HB 711, which authorizes the Attorney General's Anti-Trust Division to review acquisitions by hospitals and act accordingly to prevent harmful monopolies.
"When a hospital has a monopoly on providing health care services, they can self-refer or implement other pricing policies that aren't in the best interest of the patient," said bill sponsor Rep. Colleen Burton, R-Lakeland. "This bill is a simple solution to ensure that we don't see unnecessary inflation in our health care costs because of unchecked monopolies."
On Wednesday, Speaker Oliva recognized Brittany DeCastro of Tallahassee as "Nurse Practitioner of the Day" in place of the traditional "Doctor of the Day." The continued presence of nurse practitioners and other advanced practice registered nurses in the Capitol's clinic is a nod to HB 607, legislation that would expand their scope of practice and improve access to primary care.
For more information on these bills, visit MyFloridaHouse.gov.