Categories: Health Law,

Florida lawmakers are currently promoting a new bill, spearheaded by Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, that seeks to bring cash-only clinics into compliance with regulations for other, insurance-accepting medical facilities, or to eliminate the clinics’ existence altogether. These clinics currently operate under an existing loophole that Sobel and other supporters of the bill aim to close for good. If passed, the measure would bring all medical facilities to the same standards across the board, healthcare lawyers in Fort Lauderdale and Coral Gables say.

The bill, SB 746, would impose mandatory licensing requirements for all medical clinics, even if they do not accept insurance from patients, as well as regular license renewals and inspections. The current loophole allows these cash-only clinics to operate without compliance to state regulations, because the statutory definition of a “clinic” is an institution or medical operation that accepts insurance plans and payments from its clients. Based on this definition, it is easy for these cash-only clinics to avoid obtaining a license or paying renewal fees each year, and to skip the annual state-required inspections, simply by not accepting insurance.  

At these clinics, patients have to pay up front at the time of their visit. Although some clinics will forward insurance and bill information to a patient’s carrier, if provided, none of them accept insurance policy information for their own billing purposes to cover a portion, or all, of a patient’s bill. The attraction of these clinics lies in their fuss-free front—patients come in, pay in cash, and receive a quick exam, diagnosis, and prescription or treatment plan as necessary. The clinics are usually fluid and mobile, quick to set up, and quick to be dismantled, moved, or changed as the patient base changes. 

Often, cash-only clinics are run by businesspeople who do not have a solid grasp of the medical field, or who have never worked with medicine and healthcare before. Although a licensed doctor is required by the state to practice medicine, oversee the other staff members, and sign prescriptions, it is not necessary that the whole staff be licensed. It also is not necessary that the clinic itself obtain the proper operating paperwork that is required for other medical facilities in the state that do accept insurance. Usually, clinics hire older doctors and pay them according to an hourly rate. 

Because clinic owners are not required to get their licenses, sometimes the state does not even know of their existence. Inspections are never performed, which could potentially compromise health provisions for patients. Across the board, these clinics have a poor reputation of cutting corners to provide care, and of overprescribing or providing unnecessary medications to patients who request them. 

The dangers inherent in these clinics make them risky for doctors who practice within these facilities, and patients who visit them. The risk of malpractice—whether due to doctor inexperience, unchecked prescriptions, or potentially unsanitary conditions or practices—is great, simply because these clinics are not held to the state’s standard. If Sobel’s measures continue to move forward, a statewide set of requirements could prevent further problems. 

At Fort Lauderdale and Coral Gables law firm Lubell Rosen, our healthcare lawyers represent anyone who has issues within the medical field, including doctors facing legal action for malpractice or healthcare related complications. If you need legal representation in Florida, New York, New Jersey or Georgia, contact a Lubell Rosen attorney for a free consultation today.