One of the great mysteries about businesses such as the 1-800-411-PAIN Referral Service is whether the lawyers and doctors involved in the network have a financial incentive to refer car accident victims to one another.
Now, a state lawmaker is trying to force medical and legal referral services to reveal any monetary relationships among their members. Rep. Rick Kriseman (D-St. Petersburg) proposed a bill in March, HB 1237, that would require companies like 411-PAIN to provide clients "with a written disclosure that clearly and unambiguously states any financial interest or financial relationship that the referring person or entity has with the health care provider, lawyer, or law firm to whom a referral is made."
Kriseman, a longtime attorney, says he's trying to protect consumers who call services such as the Broward-based 1-800-411-PAIN and Sarasota-based 1-800-ASK-GARY and think they are getting unbiased referrals to doctors and lawyers.
"I think it's important for me to know that 1-800-ASK-GARY owns that [medical] clinic," Kriseman says. "At a minimum, they should at least tell me that they're not offering me [a referral to] anyone else because they get money by me going there."
In fact, his bill prohibits a network from making referrals only to medical clinics in which it has a financial interest. This would impact 411-PAIN, because chiropractor Robert Cash Lewin owns the referral service and co-owns at least a dozen of the chiropractic clinics in the network.
In interviews with New Times last year, 411-PAIN Lewin said outside medical clinics pay a fee to join the network, and they help pay for advertising. But he flatly denied that lawyers kick in any dough to join; that would violate bar rules.
If that's the case, Kriseman says, his bill wouldn't be bad for the network's bottom line. "These guys should have no problem with this bill if they're doing business appropriately."
Unfortunately, Kriseman's bill died in the last legislative session without making it out of committee. But he's planning to reintroduce it in the next session, and is hoping for bipartisan support.