By Consumers For Quality Care, on May 5, 2021
72-year-old Kyunghee Lee needed a routine injection to relieve arthritis pain in her hand. For the past few years, Lee paid $30 for each shot. But after her trip to the doctor’s office last summer, a shocking bill came in the mail charging Lee $354.68 – more than 10 times what she paid previously.
According to NPR, Lee’s doctor had moved to a different floor in the medical building, and that change allowed the hospital system to classify the appointment differently. Now, a “facility fee” of $1,262 meant that Lee’s portion of the bill had skyrocketed. Lee’s daughter, Esther Lee, said that the bill was a large burden on her mother’s finances, which are supplemented with Social Security.
“This is a senior citizen for whom English is not her first language. She doesn’t have the resources to fight this,” said Esther Lee.
Facility fees are why hospital prices are increasing at a faster rate than physician prices, according to research from Health Affairs.
“Facility fees are designed by hospitals in particular to grab more revenue from the weakest party in health care: namely, the individual patient,” said Alan Sager, a Boston University School of Public Health professor of health policy and management.
The Lee family tried to dispute the bill for a while, but eventually gave in.
“I don’t want to lose my credit,” Kyunghee Lee said. “I always paid on time.”