Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Language Issue Hurts Medicaid Fraud Bill; Addition of 'Biometrics' Raises Red Flags Because of Privacy, Cost Fears

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Language Issue Hurts Medicaid Fraud Bill; Addition of 'Biometrics' Raises Red Flags Because of Privacy, Cost Fears

Article excerpt

Byline: Tia Mitchell

TALLAHASSEE | Language in a bill intended to prevent Medicaid fraud has raised red flags among hospital officials and Democrats concerned about patient privacy and cost.

Rep. Dane Eagle is the sponsor of House Bill 1299, a measure intended to reduce public assistance fraud. But much of the discussion during a recent committee meeting focused on a provision that requires Florida hospitals to install software that allows them to use biometrics and the state driver license database to check patient identification.

"The question is, are they who they say they are?" Eagle, R-Cape Coral said.

When the bill came up for a vote last month in the House Children, Families and Seniors Subcommittee, Rep. Amanda Murphy proposed an amendment that struck the requirement that hospitals "biometrically" confirm the identity of Medicaid patients.

Murphy said Thursday that something about the way this provision was written jumped out up at her immediately, especially since the rest of the bill focuses on welfare programs like food stamps.

"When I saw that, just a red flag went up, I didn't know why," Murphy, D-New Port Richey, said.

She had learned about biometrics after touring medical facilities in her district and noted that it goes beyond simply scanning an identification card. Biometrics is a term used in the security field to describe confirming a person's identity using unique physical or behavioral characteristics, such as a fingerprint, retina scan or even their voice.

Murphy wondered why a simple barcode scan of a person's identification card wasn't acceptable. At Eagle's urging, the amendment failed.


The Florida Hospital Association also took issue with this provision, but for different reasons. Rich Rasmussen, the association's vice president for membership relations, said hospitals already use a variety of systems to confirm patient identity and requiring software that ties into the state driver license database was too restrictive.

"Our concern is where you start tying it in to Highway Safety Motor Vehicles: Whose technology are we talking about there?" he said. "And can that technology work with the existing vendors that we have? Can that be integrated in with our electronic medical records systems?"

Eagle said he has heard about different vendors that might be able to provide this service to hospitals, but it isn't certain how much it will cost them or if the state will help them pay for this service. …

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