CT hospitals pushing transparency on facility fees

The Connecticut Hospital Association (CHA) is pushing its members to disclose the fees they charge to patients prior to treatment, the Hartford Courant reported.

The CHA voted unanimously to have its members adopt greater price transparency, particularly when it comes to disclosures of facility fees--essentially charges for using one of the hospital's satellite facilities, such as a medical office, according to the Courant.

Such fees can cost patients hundreds of dollars for a procedure. Hospitals often impose fees after they acquire medical practices and physicians refer patients for procedures or other specific forms of care. The organizations claim that the fees help defray the rising cost of healthcare delivery.

In some instances, the way the hospitals levy the fees impact out-of-pocket costs for patients, with Connecticut resident Susan Ferro having to pay a $4,000 bill for an outpatient visit, according to the Connecticut Mirror.

Such fees are extremely unpopular with patients, particularly if they had received care in the past without receiving such a charge. In Missouri, patients filed a class-action lawsuit against Tenet Healthcare in 2012 regarding facility fees it charged at two Saint Louis-area hospitals. The plaintiffs claim such fees are "misleading and undisclosed." Another facility fee imposed by the Cleveland Clinic in 2009 caused patients to complain vociferously.

The CHA said the new policy would be in place by March 1, but Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen said he would pursue legal means regarding price transparency.

"I continue to believe that legislation is necessary to require hospitals to provide this information--and more--to their patients," Jepsen told the Courant. "Among other things, I believe hospitals also should be mandated to provide notice about facility fees prior to the time patients arrive to receive care at hospital-based facilities and to a broader class of patients than the association's policy contemplates."

Jepsen is not the only attorney general to investigate facility fees. Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley said last year her office is also investigating the practice.

To learn more:
- read the Hartford Courant article
- here's the Connecticut Mirror article

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