A Bill that Might Have Stemmed Medical Debt Dies in Florida
After winning approval in Florida’s House of Representatives, a bill that called for greater transparency in medical care pricing was shot down in the Senate, thus eliminating its chances of becoming law in Florida.
Still, the bill itself deserves attention, as it highlights one of the very real (and very troubling) realities of the United States’ health care system today.
A “Menu” of Medical Care
One of the reasons so many people find themselves in overwhelming medical debt (and subsequently choose to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy to eliminate that debt) is because it is not common practice in the U.S. to post the prices of various medical procedures and treatments.
Further, as several news sources have reported over the years, the price of a given medical procedure often varies widely from one provider to another. Without a transparent system for identifying where their care would be least expensive, consumers often end up paying more than they need to (and more than they can afford) for the medical care they need.
The bill in Florida proposed that:
- Health care providers would have to display their out-of-pocket cost for certain procedures.
- Price displays would have to meet minimum size guidelines to ensure that consumers could easily identify them and understand the prices of the services listed.
- Healthcare providers would have to limit “balance billing,” the practice of charging a patient the difference between what they charge for a service and what the patient’s insurance company has agreed to pay for it.
- Doctors would be exempted from the practice, but those that chose to comply would have to meet the size guidelines.
Essentially, the bill sought to provide a measure of transparency in healthcare that is completely lacking today.
But according to sources, a committee on Florida’s Senate voted the bill down after being lobbied by groups representing health care providers. The death of the bill is viewed as a loss for consumers in general, and for the uninsured in particular.
The Difficulty of Shopping Around for Medical Treatment
Had it passed, the bill could have saved lots of sick and injured Americans lots of money—which is probably why the healthcare providers pushed to kill it. That “saved” money would come from the pockets of those providing the health care (or health insurance) to ordinary people.
At present, shopping around for medical treatment can be extremely difficult, partly because of inconsistent policies on posting the prices of procedures, and partly because most people tend to need medical attention on a pretty strict deadline, limiting the amount of time they can spend browsing for alternatives.