Consumers Have Right To Know About Medical Charges

When you need to access health care in a hurry in Florida, you might not be thinking about how difficult it is to read the bill at the end of the day. Confusing codes, indecipherable language and discounts that may or may not apply, make shopping for the best and lowest cost health care something you don’t think of.

But consider this. Shop for health care like you shop for anything when you want to save money – wisely. The state of Florida is making it a bit easier.

Many consumers of medical services in Florida may not know that under law they have the right to reliable and understandable information about their health care charges.

Since January 1, 2009, when the “Health Care Consumer’s Right to Information Act” took effect, uninsured consumers have been entitled to receive a reasonable estimate of charges for any planned nonemergency medical service from a health care provider.

That includes everything from an osteopath to podiatrist, a hospital to an ambulatory surgical center. Even allopathic physicians are included in the requirement. In addition, the facility must provide reliable information on any discount or charity policies that might apply to the uninsured patient. The estimate is supposed to be written in lay language – in other words, in language that is understandable to the ordinary person without medical training.

For facilities not operated by the state, the bill requires them to provide the estimate of reasonably anticipated charges within seven days after the center confirms the individual is uninsured. The estimate should be the average charge for that diagnosis or procedure. And the facility is supposed to notify the person if there is a revision of the estimate.

The patient should not have to dig for this information. The law requires the facility to put a notice in the reception area concerning any discounts or charity discounts, under what condition they are available. A failure to do so subjects the facility to a $500 fine.

If you want to find out more, go to the state Agency for Health Care Administration. It must publish on its Web site (www.floridahealthfinder.gov) undiscounted charges for now fewer than 150 of the most commonly performed adult and pediatric procedures.

As reducing the cost of health care is on everyone’s mind, creating transparency in the health care industry is one way we can lower our bills and keep everyone honest.

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