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US could learn from NY’s facility fees disclosure law

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Wednesday, April 10, 2024   

As federal agencies crack down on "junk fees." experts feel they can learn a thing or two from New York.

The state is one of 13 to pass facility fee reforms, which are growing as more hospital systems merge with independent physicians. The fees can vary in price and are used to help hospital systems maintain various clinics. New York passed a bill requiring hospitals to disclose them to patients in advance.

Diane Spicer, supervising attorney for the group Community Health Advocates, said consumers are getting nickeled and dimed by facility fees.

"Facility fees are usually small in comparison to some of the medical debt cases that we handle," Spicer acknowledged. "$250, $500, $200, but they all add up."

The fees are part of the growing national medical debt crisis. A KFF report found national medical debt totaled at least $220 billion in 2021. About 910,000 people in New York report having medical debt, despite more people having health insurance.

The Federal Trade Commission will hold a hearing on junk fees this month and national community health groups signed a letter calling for a ban on facility fees.

Mona Shah, senior policy and strategy director for the nonprofit Community Catalyst, believes the fees do not serve their original purpose, including fees for telehealth visits.

"I mean it's as simple as there is nothing currently that bans a hospital from saying you cannot charge an individual facility fee for a telemedicine visit," Shah pointed out.

Hospitals and medical centers have been pushing back, arguing the fees are an important source of revenue to cover operational and overhead costs. The American Hospital Association has opposed previous Congressional legislation banning facility fees because they said cuts to hospitals and health systems could severely affect patients' care.

Disclosure: Community Catalyst contributes to our fund for reporting on Health Issues, and Reproductive Health. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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