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Patients blindsided by facility fees in hospital bills

Codman Square Health Center in Dorchester, Massachusetts.
Codman Square Health Center in Dorchester, Massachusetts. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Patients are getting blindsided by "facility fees" in their hospital bills, a controversial charge that some medical facilities defend as necessary for additional income.

The state of play: Hospitals argue that facility fees help with overhead costs so that care can be provided to sick patients 24/7, all year-round.

  • The Health Care Cost Institute found that facility fee charges nearly doubled from 2009 to 2016, outpacing overall health spending four times over, NPR reports.
  • Hospitals are not legally obligated to give patients a heads up, though some are trying to be more transparent.

Driving the news: In Detroit, a facility fee was responsible for more than half of an insured patient's bill after she had a benign cyst removed from her abdomen, Kaiser Health News reports.

The bottom line: Ultimately, bills come out higher than patients budget for. Critics have called these fees a tax on sick people and argue that there's no formula for pricing.

Go deeper: Hospital lawsuits unearth "cracks in our system"