Shop around for your healthcare on new state-run website

Before you schedule your next surgery, go in for your back pain, or take care of another lingering medical annoyance, Florida’s governor says shop around.

This week, Governor Ron Desantis unveiled the new website, Florida Health Price Finder, during an event in the Tampa area.

The website, from the Agency for Healthcare Administration, allows users to search for non-emergency medical procedures and compare price ranges for treatment at local medical facilities.

Users can search by procedure, body part and by location. 

Along with price information, the website gives users tips on what to expect during the procedure and sometimes things like questions to ask when shopping around.

Governor Desantis said the website was a way to increase transparency in healthcare in Florida.

“If you look at how people behave in most aspects of their lives, they kind of have a sense of how much things cost and they make decisions accordingly,” Desantis said. “That’s really not been the case with healthcare.”

Desantis said the tool was something he pushed to expedite when he got into office.

It appears the tool is still growing in data as some procedures didn’t have listed prices yet at all local facilities or only offered a state and national average so far.

However, the governor gave some examples of some of the massive gaps his office had found in pricing already.

“I mean in Tampa, for example, a cost for a knee replacement ranged from $33,000 to $54,000, that’s a difference of $21,000,” Desantis said. “In other areas of life, you probably wouldn’t have that.”

Even as the tool grows though, experts urge Floridians not to make it their be-all-end-all for healthcare advice.

Dr. Melanie Guldi, who teaches health economics at the University of Central Florida, said there has been a growing call for more transparency in healthcare pricing. 

In recent years, that’s lead to a lot of hospitals posting their own prices online, but she said this obviously expands on that.

“It’s a really great idea and has a lot of essential information on it,” Guldi said.

However, she said economically there are some concerns.

She said transparency like this can lead providers in a marketplace to get more competitive and lower prices, especially in the case of outliers who are revealed to be significantly more expensive, but it can also have the opposite effect. She said especially in a situation where there are few options in the marketplace, like healthcare, there’s potential that the lower-priced options could raise up when they see the competition getting a bit more for similar offerings.

She also cautions users to not get too caught up on the price tag in a field as nuanced as healthcare.

“Patients might be acting, perhaps too much on the price,” she said, “and they might be choosing treatments that are not a good quality match for their condition.”

Guldi advises Floridians to keep the bigger picture in mind as they use that tool and to make sure they’re still getting the care they need.

She also said the tool would likely be a larger help to the uninsured versus those with insurance companies bargaining prices for them.

Desantis said that transparency is just one aspect of healthcare the state is addressing, but an important one at that.

“I think most people, what they want is high-quality care, but they want it in the most cost-effective way, so that’s what we’re trying to do,” Desantis said.

To access that new tool, CLICK HERE.

Orlando Health also weighed in on the new website, writing this statement: 

"Orlando Health fully supports hospital pricing transparency that is available through websites like the recently re-launched FloridaHealthPriceFinder. As one of the most cost-efficient and high-quality healthcare systems in the region, Orlando Health is committed to be as transparent as possible and to offer assistance before, during or after a patient’s stay. Upon request, we will provide patients with an estimate for an upcoming hospital visit, and/or a post-discharge itemized statement for a hospital visit, within seven business days of the request. We will also provide, upon request, estimated hospital charges and fees for physicians employed by Orlando Health and their services; as well as contact information for non-emergency contracted services, such as anesthesiology."