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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"

Go deeper

Coronavirus hospitalizations top 100,000 for the first time

Expand chart
Data: The COVID Tracking ProjectHarvard Global Health Institute; Cartogram: Danielle Alberti and Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

More than 100,000 Americans are now in the hospital with coronavirus infections — a new record, an indication that the pandemic is continuing to get worse and a reminder that the virus is still very dangerous.

Why it matters: Hospitalizations are a way to measure severe illnesses — and severe illnesses are on the rise across the U.S. In some areas, health systems and health care workers are already overwhelmed, and outbreaks are only getting worse.

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
18 mins ago - Economy & Business

Our make-believe economy

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The Federal Reserve and global central banks are remaking the world's economy in an effort to save it, but have created something of a monster.

Why it matters: The Fed-driven economy relies on the creation of trillions of dollars — literally out of thin air — that are used to purchase bonds and push money into a pandemic-ravaged economy that has long been dependent on free cash and is only growing more addicted.

New hope for "smart cities"

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

It's time to polish our gleaming vision of urban environments where internet technology makes everything from finding a parking space to measuring air quality a snap.

Why it matters: The Biden administration's Cabinet appointees are likely to be champions of bold futurism in urban planning — which could mean that smart infrastructure projects, like broadband deployment and digital city services, get fresh funding and momentum.