Health Care Transparency Effort Lags

By on September 27, 2018 in News Service of Florida

Tallahassee, FL – With just months left in his term, one of Gov. Rick Scott’s key health-care initiatives remains in limbo.

Scott convinced legislators to set aside $3.5 million to create a new website and to create a claims database that would allow Floridians to shop around when it comes to health care. But with Scott ready to leave the governor’s office in January, the health-care price information still isn’t available to Florida consumers.

And it’s not clear when it will be.

Members of a state panel were told Wednesday that the Scott administration “doesn’t have an established timeline for the launch.”

Also, the state’s largest health-insurance company, Florida Blue, hasn’t started submitting data.

Florida Blue spokeswoman Toni Woods told The News Service of Florida that the company “intends to participate” in the program, which is overseen by the state Agency for Health Care Administration.

“It is our understanding that at this point, AHCA is working out the final details to make sure the appropriate processes are in place for submitting the data,’’ Woods said.

Scott, who has often criticized efforts to overhaul health care at the federal level, has contended for years that more needs to be done to lower the cost of what patients — and the government — pay for care.

To that end, after getting approval from the Legislature the Scott administration signed a contract with the Health Care Cost Institute, or HCCI, to administer the database and develop a consumer-friendly website. HCCI was founded in 2011 by four insurance companies including Aetna, Humana, and UnitedHealthcare.

But before getting claims data from insurance companies the state had to pass rules and procedures, which took time. Under those rules, Florida-specific companies had until this month to submit the data.

Mallory McManus, a spokeswoman for AHCA, said in a statement that the website has “faced a lot of push back and resistance from special interests, but we will continue to fight for consumer transparency.”

Scott championed increased health-care transparency in 2016, a year after a bruising legislative battle over expanding Medicaid access for uninsured, childless adults. In lieu of expanding Medicaid, Scott said he would help uninsured Floridians by working to lower the cost of health care and touted increased transparency as a key way to do that.

Meanwhile, Florida hospitals that crossed Scott by supporting Medicaid expansion support his administration’s decision to get better data before broadly launching the site.

“The Agency for Health Care Administration is making the right decision by taking the time to get this right,” Florida Hospital Association President Bruce Rueben said in a statement.

An early iteration of the state website, FloridaHealthPriceFinder.com, has had nearly 30,000 hits since its premiere in November 2017.  HCCI has received more than $3.5 million in payments from the state since July 2017 to create the website.

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