Attorney general cracks down on New York urgent care centers

Four operators of urgent care centers in and around New York City have agreed to disclose more pricing information to patients after they came under pressure from the state attorney general, according to Kaiser Health News.

The decision to be more transparent came after inquiries from New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to about 20 such facilities, suggesting that the insurance-related information they posted on their websites was potentially misleading. The state recently passed a law banning the practice of "surprise bills"--wherein patients are charged far more than they had originally been told or had been expecting.

Such bills have caused patient complaints. In New York, investigators have determined that patients have received surprise balance bills for as much as $233,188 for orthopedic surgery, $282,500 for neurosurgery and $200,000 for plastic surgery. But even in a much lower-cost environment such as an urgent care center, many patients have been hit with surprise bills, including those who inquired in advance about their financial responsibilities.

Those grievances are among the reasons New York passed the first such law of its kind in the nation barring murky health plan language from providers, and some believe it's a model that other states could adopt. Indeed, Connecticut and New Jersey lawmakers have been trying to form similar legislation.

The centers, 181st Street Urgent Care in Manhattan; Brookdale Urgent Care, an affiliate of Brookdale Hospital; New York Doctor's Urgent Care and Cure Urgent Care, with locations both in New York City and Long Island, agreed to provide to all patients the health plans they contract with as in-network providers and cease using the terms "works with" or "accepts." They must also make it clear to the patient that if they are out-of-network, they would incur higher charges.

To learn more:
- read the Kaiser Health News article