Local groups praise passage of Senate bill in Florida
Gov. Charlie Crist signed into law Senate Bill 1122 — a piece of legislation that forces insurers to bill a patient’s physician directly — Wednesday.
Lobbyists for insurance companies claimed that the bill could increase health costs and premiums, but supporters pointed out that it would save time for physicians and reduce patient billing hassles.
The Florida Medical Association and the Lee County Medical Society expressed their support for the bill.
SB 1122 requires insurance companies to send a patient’s payment for health services directly to their physician when they visit an out-of-network provider.
Some insurance companies in Florida send the payment directly to the patient, forcing the physician to waste time tracking down the patient.
The new law honors a patient’s choice for payment and improves billing efficiency.
“While routing the payment through the patient may seem like a minor inconvenience, unfortunately this practice is driving up the cost of health care, imposing hidden fees and limiting access,” said Timothy Stapleton, executive vice president of the Florida Medical Association. “This common sense legislation will put a stop to this and allow physicians to spend more time and resources on direct-patient care.”
Dr. Stuart Bobman, legislative chair for the Lee County Medical Society, said the bill was the organization’s number one priority for the 2009 legislative session.
“It causes more clerical work for physicians,” he said. “We have billing expenses, and instead of having them mailed directly, they have to contact the patient and attempt to collect it. It also saves the patient time from having to send it.”
Bobman stressed that SB 1122 will not change prices on a medical bill. It also has no affect on a patient’s in-network or out-of-network choice of physician.
“This has no physical impact on the bill,” he said. “The Lee County Medical Society was completely behind it.”
Both Houses of the Florida Legislature passed SB 1122 by a large margin. The House voted 102-11 and the Senate 31-7 in support of the bill.
Health agencies such as the Florida Medical Association are expressing their gratitude toward the Legislature and Crist for signing the bill into law.
“On behalf of the physicians who provide care to the patients of Florida, we thank Gov. Crist for his demonstrated commitment to putting patients fist and signing SB 1122 into law,” said Dr. Steven West, president of the Florida Medical Association.