Lee’s insurance had changed to a Medicare Advantage plan in 2020. The overall cost for the appointment was nearly three times what it was in 2017 — before insurance even got involved.
The National Academy for State Health Policy has drafted model legislation for states to clamp down on the practice, which appears to have worsened, Executive Director Trish Riley said, as more private practices have been bought by hospitals and facility fees are tacked onto their charges.
“It’s the same physician office it was,” she said. “Operating in exactly the same way, doing exactly the same services — but the hospital chooses to attach a facility fee to it.”
New York, Oregon and Massachusetts are pursuing legislation to curtail this practice, she said. Connecticut has a facility fee transparency law on the books, and Ohio, where Lee lives, is considering legislation that would prohibit facility fees for telehealth services.
But Riley noted it’s difficult to fight powerful hospital lobbyists in a pandemic political climate, where hospitals are considered heroic.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has attempted to curtail facility fees by introducing a site-neutral payment policy. The American Hospital Association sued over the move and plans to take the case to the Supreme Court.
Resolution: Lee’s daughter, Esther Lee, was furious with the hospital over the fee. Her mom, who is fiercely independent, finally brought her the bill after trying for weeks to get the billing office to change it.
“This is wrong,” Esther Lee said. “Even if it was a lot of money for services properly rendered, then of course she would pay it. But that’s not the case here.”
When Lee called her doctor’s office to complain, they told her to talk to the billing department of the hospital. So Lee, with Esther’s help, repeatedly called the billing department and filed a complaint with Medicare.
“I don’t want to lose my credit,” Kyunghee Lee said. “I always paid on time.”