Battle Looming over Hospital ‘Facility Fees’

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Consumers in Massachusetts are squawking about “facility fees” that are added by hospital groups to patient bills to cover general overhead.

It remains to be seen if the protests are like those aimed at the weather–”everyone complains, but no one does anything about it.” But one of the daily newspapers in the region, the Boston Globe, has published numerous stories on what has become a sore subject to many consumers.

The most recent article described how many patients are refusing to pay facility fees, changed physicians, or even instituted personal bans against healthcare providers that charge such fees. Charging patients for general overhead has long been an industry best practice, but according to the Globe article, the practice is becoming more visible to consumers for two major reasons:

  • Industry consolidation. More and more physician practices are joining hospital groups, and in turn their respective patients are being charged facility fees, even when service is provided in a setting outside the hospital.
  • High-deductibles. Health insurance plans with high deductibles are gaining ground in the marketplace, making charges once invisible to consumers now receiving greater scrutiny.

While no official action has been taken by state authorities that oversee healthcare, the practice is drawing attention. Reports the Globe:

State officials have taken notice of the uproar. The Health Policy Commission, a newly created agency that monitors health care costs, decided to examine these so-called “facility fees” after the Globe published a story in January about a patient charged $1,525 in operating room and facility fees for a minor skin procedure. And a spokesman for Attorney General Martha Coakley said last week her office is reviewing the practice after receiving complaints from consumers.

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Posted in Medical Receivables, Patient Access, Patient Financial Services .

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