Patients push back against hospital facility fees

Patients, fed up with the facility fees that many hospitals and healthcare systems impose on them, may soon refuse to pay the charges, the Miami Herald reported.

Facility fees continue to grow in popularity among hospitals, particularly those that acquire medical practices. A change in Medicare rules a decade ago also makes it easier for providers to bill for physician services separately from other operations, according to the newspaper.

However, the additional fees rankle many patients, who are usually unaware of the charges until they receive a bill.

"It's not just the fee," lung cancer patient Linda Drake told the Miami Herald after receiving a $210 charge for a one-hour visit to a University of Miami outpatient facility to participate in a clinical trial. "It's the way they've gone about implementing it that's offensive."

Patients sued Tenet Healthcare for implementation of the fees in 2012, FierceHealthcare previously reported. And the Cleveland Clinic came under major criticism from patients when it implemented a facility fee about five years ago. In Connecticut, state regulators are pushing hospitals to disclose such fees.

A survey of major local providers by the Herald noted that few could provide specifics as to what they base their facility fees on, other than the type of care levied. Baptist Health of South Florida does not apply the charges in all instances. It imposes fees at its urgent care centers, but not its physician practices. Jackson Health, one of the region's safety net providers, charges fees at its primary care centers, but not at its physician offices, according to the publication.

Mercy Healthcare, the Missouri-based healthcare system that operates 33 hospitals in four states, announced plans at a healthcare conference last month that it would rescind facility fees on all medical practices it acquires, according to the Herald. The change will likely cost Mercy $40 million a year in revenues. However, it's unclear whether the system moved ahead with the plans as officials would not confirm the decision with the Herald.

To learn more:
- read the Miami Herald article