Facility fees add to Mainers' growing concerns over medical debt
Monday, February 12, 2024
Maine lawmakers are calling for greater transparency in how hospitals and other health care centers charge so-called facility fees.
A legislative task force says providers should notify patients prior to a scheduled service if they'll be charged an added fee, and recommends the fees be eliminated for telehealth services or outpatient evaluations, including visits to a doctor's office.
Ann Woloson, executive director of Consumers for Affordable Health Care, said patients deserve to know when and how these fees are assessed.
"What is it that the facility fees are actually paying for," said Woloson, "and how much is really necessary to cover the cost incurred by hospitals that are billing these fees?"
Woloson called the recommendations "a good first step" in strengthening consumer protections, but some health care facilities say the fees are needed to cover twenty-four hour care, increased security and supplies.
Consumer advocates say facility fees can range from $15 to thousands of dollars, and are adding to the growing concern of medical debt.
Surveys show half of Maine households carry medical debt, the majority of which stems from hospital bills.
Woloson said while it's important that hospitals can remain open, consumers shouldn't bear the burden of high health care prices.
"More needs to be done to try to control costs," said Woloson, "while at the same time improving access to the health care services that Mainers, particularly in rural areas of the state, need."
Woloson said high health care costs are impacting peoples' everyday lives.
One in three Mainers report struggling to pay for basic necessities, such as food, heat, or housing within the past two years as a result of a medical bill.
And nearly one in three Mainers has recently been contacted by a collection agency about an overdue hospital bill.
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