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Gov. Rick Scott, Florida Hospitals To Push For Dueling Health Care Bills

Ryan Benk

Gov. Rick Scott talked Tuesday with Jacksonville residents who say they’ve been the victims of hospital price gouging.

It’s part of the governor’s push to bring down health care costs by making prices more transparent.

Florida hospital officials are calling Scott’s framing of the issue irresponsible and inaccurate.

It’s been a couple weeks since Scott asked Floridians to send in their health care price gouging stories.

Scott met with a few of those people in Jacksonville at the University of North Florida Alumni Center. After the closed-door meeting, he told reporters the problem with hospital pricing comes down to transparency.

“I think everybody in health care ought to be disclosing their prices,” Scott said. “I think it’s no different than anything else you need. It’s your money. You should know exactly what it costs. Let’s remember all of these hospitals — I don't think there’s many hospitals in our state that don't get some state dollars.”

Scott said he’s heard stories of $3,500 X-rays, surgeries scheduled with out-of-network doctors and patients’ being informed they weren’t being admitted after hours of waiting in a hospital.

He’s proposing legislation that would require hospitals to post average prices and insurance information online. Any price that exceeds the average, the state would consider price gouging.

A recent Washington Post investigation found 20 Florida hospitals routinely charge far above the cost of care. Number eight on that list was Orange Park Medical Center, an HCA hospital. Scott is a former executive for the health care giant.

But Florida Hospital Association President Bruce Rueben says Scott’s proposal amounts to price-capping — something he says won’t work in an ever-evolving health care landscape.

“Rather than pull out tired old ideas, using very hyperbolic rhetoric like ‘price gouging,’ it would make more sense for all of us to work together to figure out the best way to get people information in a format that they can use,” Rueben said.

The hospital association wants Florida to implement an All-Payer’s Claims Database, like Colorado and Virginia have. The database compiles insurance claims online to allow everyone in the health care system — patients, insurers and hospitals — to get a better idea of costs and coverage.

Scott and the hospital association are both working on bills to suggest to the Legislature. 

Ryan Benk is a former WJCT News reporter who joined the station in 2015 after working as a news researcher and reporter for NPR affiliate WFSU in Tallahassee.