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Paul Renner wants patients to shop for health care

Bill would inform and incentivize consumers to shop around for service.

Discussions of health care often revolve around insurance, but Rep. Paul Renner has a bill seeking more transparency in the cost of procedures themselves.

“When I looked at everything we shop for, everything we buy, everything that’s in our family budget, we look for and we shop for the highest quality for the lowest price,” he said. “Except for health care.”

There, consumers often have no idea the costs of medical services and lack any way to compare.

Renner’s Patient Savings Act (HB 1113), which will be heard Monday by the House Ways and Means Committee, hopes to inform and incentivize bargain hunting for medical care.

“If it’s widely adopted it absolutely will reduce the costs of health care,” he said.

Putting such policy into place could be difficult. A staff analysis of the bill notes insurers will need to include new contract components for insurers and to inform them annually of a savings program.

And Renner in the past tried to run a similar idea in the House without success. But while legislation prior years made participating in a savings program mandatory, this provides an option for consumers.

Changes would not apply to emergency services, a situation where patients can’t shop for cheap care anyway. But if patients look around for high-quality care at lower prices and find it, Renner’s measure requires insurance companies share savings with the individual.

Similar laws already govern health care in Maine and New Hampshire. Such incentives in those place led to a much higher rate of use for transparency tools.

Renner’s proposal comes against a backdrop of steadily rising deductibles for Florida patients. The average deductible for covered workers in 2018 was $1,350, compared to $433 in 2008.

And Renner said there’s little control on the charges medical facilities bill. He pointed to studies in California that uncovered providers charging $120,000 for a service available for $20,000 at a nearby competitor.

“This will require higher cost providers to lower their prices,” he said. “They will charge to true free market value, not charge whatever they can get away with.”

The legislation already passed in the Health Market Reform Subcommittee, and Renner hopes it advances to Health & Human Services. Similar Senate legislation (SB 524) goes to the Senate Government and Accountability Committee on Tuesday.

Written By

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at jacobogles@hotmail.com.

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