Report Card: Florida gets 'F' for medical transparency

Patients likely pay more because they know less

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Florida earned an "F" grade in a new national Report Card from the Health Care Incentives Improvement Institute.

The big problem, according to the report, is the state's transparency laws.

Why is transparency so important? Experts say that Floridians have no way to compare prices among health care providers and for specific services, which leads to people paying much higher costs and feeling generally confused about the entire industry.

"The impact of unexpected high cost bills is clear for uninsured patients who bear the entire financial burden," the report reads. "However, these expenses can be significant and burdensome for insured consumers as well; this is especially true with the rise in high-deductible health plans."

Right now Floridians can learn more about state health care option on the state-run website FloridaHealthFinder.gov, but the site only shows hospital bills. It does not show what insurance companies are paying, which would be key for patients trying to budget medical expenses. 

Gov. Rick Scott signed a 2016 bill that allows patients to ask their doctors for a price estimate in advance of care, and even requires insurance companies to put something on their website to help people estimate costs. However the bill doesn't require the tracking of actual costs, or information about what other people are paying for the same service, or tailor those cost estimates to someone's specific insurance plan, as other states' plans do.

Another report about healthcare in Florida brought equally dismal news. Florida CHAIN (Community Health Action Information Network) spoke on the front steps of the St. Petersburg City Hall to call for legislative actions to expand Medicaid coverage in Florida.

"This report proves what we've known all along and what 31 other states are finding out. Closing the coverage gap is the best thing to do for hardworking Floridians and the people of Tampa Bay. It has the potential to create tens of thousands of local jobs, address our state's growing mental health crisis, and provide much needed relief to hurting veterans," said Mark Pafford, Florida CHAIN's chief executive officer.

"Upcoming changes to the Low Income Pool payment structure is estimated to leave Tampa Bay area safety net hospital providers with a loss of $344 million for the actual cost of the care provided to uninsured adults in Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties," Pafford added Wednesday. "The report finds that providing health care coverage to low-income adults would not only significantly reduce this amount of uncompensated care, but also provide a significant boon to the area's economy."

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