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Senators eye cash refunds in health insurance programs

Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, is sponsoring the bill

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A Senate panel on Monday approved a bill that would allow cash refunds for health-insurance customers who find care that helps save money.

“Cash is king,” said Sen. Aaron Bean, a Fernandina Beach Republican who is sponsoring the bill (SB 1836).

But before approving the bill, the Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee eliminated other parts of the proposal. Bean told The News Service Florida the insurance industry “had concerns” with the initial version.

The revamped proposal would change a 2019 law that created “shared savings” programs, which provide incentives for health-insurance customers to shop for cheaper services. The bill would add cash payments to the list of potential incentives. Bean’s bill also would require the state annually to publish a list of health care services with the greatest price discrepancies on a regional and statewide basis to help guide people who want to shop for health care.

Sen. Victor Torres, D-Orlando, voted against the bill, saying he worries that it dangles a carrot of more affordable health care but ultimately leaves consumers without protections.

“There’s nothing cheap here in this state,” Torres said.

In the waning days of the 2019 legislative session, lawmakers agreed to create in law shared-savings programs, including requirements for insurance companies and HMOs that voluntarily choose to offer the programs to their customers.

Insurance companies that offer the programs currently can return any savings to customers by making deposits into health savings accounts or health reimbursement accounts or reducing premiums.

Bean’s initial version of his bill would have mandated that all health insurers and health maintenance organizations offer shared savings programs to their customers. The initial bill also would have made changes to lessen the financial consequences for state employees who want to access out-of-network providers. The staff analysis of the initial bill noted that “all of the contracted health plans and insurers with the state group insurance program have indicated either a fiscal or operational impact, or both."