By Consumers for Quality Care, on February 7, 2024
According to the Wisconsin State Journal, hospital-owned clinics have been charging patients facility fees, while doctor-owned clinics have not, even when those clinics are owned by the same health system.
Vicki McCool Anderson was in the process of scheduling an MRI for her husband through UW Health when she was informed there would be a $235 “facility fee” at the hospital-owned clinic. Anderson learned she could skip the fee altogether if her husband had the MRI performed at a doctor-owned UW Health clinic.
Hospitals argue that facility fees are necessary to cover the cost of specialized medical equipment not typically found in other facilities. Cheryl DeMars, CEO of The Alliance, an employer group that purchases medical services together, disagrees with this assertion, “Hospitals charge facility fees because they can. There’s always a push to maximize revenue,” said DeMars.
In Wisconsin, an average facility fee associated with a doctor visit at a hospital comes with a 21 percent upcharge, according to the Health Care Cost Institute. For an ultrasound, the facility fee added an extra 68 percent to the bill.
Elliott Appel compared cost estimates between a hospital-owned clinic and a doctor-owned clinic to see a dermatologist. He found the doctor-owned clinic would charge him 76 percent less than what the hospital-owned clinic would charge for the same service. Because his appointment wasn’t an emergency, Appel decided to wait five months to see a dermatologist at a doctor-owned clinic. “If you have the time and are not putting your health care at risk, consider shopping around,” said Appel.
Lawmakers on the federal and state level are working to ban facility fees, curb them, or require hospitals to be more transparent when fees will be charged.
CQC applauds efforts to improve hospital price transparency and urges increased action and oversight. CQC also urges providers, particularly hospital-owned clinics, to put an end to absurd facility fees and urges lawmakers to take on these predatory practices.