Florida Considers Allowing More Competition in Health Care
Florida lawmakers are addressing what the state’s house speaker has called the “hospital-industrial complex” with several bills aimed at increasing competition and reducing government’s role in health care.
Florida’s legislative session began March 4 and lasts 60 days. As of April 10, lawmakers introduced bills that deal with a number of consumer reforms including telemedicine, certificate of need, and opening the door for health care practitioners, direct primary care, and ambulatory care centers. One bill addresses Medicaid costs by eliminating retroactive eligibility periods for non-pregnant adults.
Michael Ciampi, a physician and policy advisor to The Heartland Institute, which publishes Health Care News,says the proposals would introduce much-needed competition in several areas of health care.
“In most states where certificate of need laws are in place, the large hospital groups are able to lobby the government heavily in order to protect the status quo and keep new players, who would be more open to offering discounts and cash pricing, out of the market,” said Ciampi.
Expanded access to telemedicine would also bring a vast improvement in the provision of expert care to patients in rural and remote areas, Ciampi says.
“It works well when a patient’s primary care provider coordinates with the remote specialist to optimize the care,” said Ciampi.
Less Government, Better Outcomes
Florida House Speaker Jose Oliva (R-Miami) is leading the reform charge while avoiding proposals that would expand the role of government health care programs such as Medicaid.
“Oliva is smart to avoid expansion of these government programs,” said Ciampi. “While the intentions may be good, in other states it has been found that simply giving people this type of health care coverage has not translated to them getting better access to care or being healthier,” said Ciampi.
Ciampi says government programs, such as Medicaid, do not guarantee access to quality care.
“The Medicaid reimbursement rates are so low, and red tape involved in getting paid, make it a losing proposition for most health care providers to take on more Medicaid patients,” said Ciampi. “It is a common misconception to think that health care coverage is the same thing as health care. Having an insurance card in your wallet that no one accepts really doesn’t do much good.”
Rejecting the Status Quo
Patients in Florida, which has one of the highest rates of uninsured people in the nation, would benefit from free-market reforms, Ciampi says.
“The argument that health care is too complicated to react to free market forces is an argument made by the very people who benefit from keeping it complicated,” said Ciampi.
“Third-party payers benefit from the byzantine billing system that they have created, because they intimidate consumers, Ciampi said. “They convince them that because the system is so complicated, the consumer needs the third-party payer to help them navigate it.”
Ciampi says all Floridians would benefit from more freedom in the health care marketplace.
“If consumers were shown fair market prices that were transparent, not dependent on provider networks that inflate charges just to tout anemic discounts of said prices, they would clearly see that the free market can work very well.”
Ashley Herzog (firstname.lastname@example.org)writes from Avon Lake, Ohio.