“And that’ll be $150 for use of the room.” As if there weren’t already enough items on your medical bills to de-code and argue over with your insurance carrier, keep your eyes peeled for the “facility fee.” That’s right, a charge for using the room.
The facility fee apparently has been around for quite some time, only most of us were unaware of its presence because it was buried among the fees submitted to our insurance companies. With fewer insurance carriers covering the fee, it is being passed along to patients.
Patients are not always told upfront about the facility fees and learn of them only when they receive an itemized bill. Hospitals say they need the fees to cover costs. Shell-shocked patients and consumer advocates think it’s just another way to stick it to the patient.
According to a story on Kaiser Health News, patients are being charged the fees as the result of an obscure change in Medicare rules that occurred a decade ago. Because hospitals and hospital-based practices can bill Medicare beneficiaries this way, they must do the same for all patients. This applies to hospitals that own physician offices and outpatient clinics, but freestanding doctors’ offices and clinics are not permitted to charge these fees, which can range from $25 to hundreds of dollars.
Medical bills are already difficult enough to decipher. What, exactly, we’re paying for, and how much we can expect to pay, is a mystery to most of us before the fact. It’s not as if we can check out a menu of facilities, physicians, and procedures in order to comparison shop. It’s not as if we always have the time to even consider our options. We’re pretty much at the mercy of the facilities and physicians that happen to be “in-network” according to our insurance carriers.
The last time I visited the hospital, I didn’t even receive an itemized bill — just a grand total — apparently, you have to ask if you even want to take a look at the individual charges.
Without comprehensive health care reform, we can expect more of the same. More hidden fees, higher premiums, higher deductibles… more stickin’ it to the patiens… and ever-more incentive to go without health care at all.
From the Petition Site: Demand Action on the Public Option.