Alert: Surprise 'facility fees' at doctors' offices shock consumers

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Elizabeth Edwards was stunned when she received a bill for $135 from HonorHealth. (Source: 3TV) Elizabeth Edwards was stunned when she received a bill for $135 from HonorHealth. (Source: 3TV)
In Edwards’ case, the "facility charge" was $135 for her follow up visit. (Source: 3TV) In Edwards’ case, the "facility charge" was $135 for her follow up visit. (Source: 3TV)
(3 ON YOUR SIDE) -

Let's say you've been seeing the same doctor for years and you've never had a billing problem.  

Well, that could change because doctors’ offices and their practices are being bought out and that's causing unforeseen problems for consumers, like Elizabeth Edwards. 

"I’m recently retired," Edwards said.

Edwards says now that she's retired, she has more time to cook healthy. And when it comes to maintaining her health, she tries to see the doctor on a regular basis.

"I called, made sure they took my insurance and everything. I set up an appointment, went and saw this doctor," Edwards said. 

Edwards says she went to the doctor's office assigned by her insurance company. Here, she paid her $5 co-pay mandated by insurance and then had some tests done. 

Edwards was then asked to come back a month later for a follow-up visit to get her results.

"The doctor came in and said everything is good, blood work looked fine, you're just one of these people that runs [sic] a low red blood cell count and she says alright, we'll see ya!" Edwards recalled.

Before leaving, Edwards says she paid another $5 co-pay and thought nothing more of it.

However, she was shocked when she received a bill for $135. But she was even more shocked at from whom it was, HonorHealth. So, she called.

“Told me, it's a facility fee. It's something they're doing now. Well, I wasn't aware of it. She said we were told the doctor’s office was going to send out letters to notify all their patients this was happening. Well, I never got anything,” Edwards said.

As it turns out, HonorHealth is gobbling up doctors’ offices and one medical practice that HonorHealth bought was Edwards' doctor and when that happens, new billing procedures always occur, including hitting consumers like Edwards with something called a "facility charge."

In Edwards’ case, the "facility charge" was $135 for her follow-up visit.

“Like I said, at a hospital, surgery, that sort of thing I expect it, but not at a doctor's office,” Edwards said.  

Edwards says HonorHealth told her since they're the new owners, they will be charging patients a "facility charge" for seeing her doctor.

She couldn't believe it so 3 On Your Side got involved. HonorHealth sent us documentation showing Edwards did sign a "financial agreement" when she checked in with her physician.

But Edwards thought it was just routine paperwork and had no idea a "facility charge" would be part of her follow-up visit.

Regardless, after 3 On Your Side got involved, HonorHealth told Edwards they would waive the $135 fee this time.

"If I hadn't called or contacted 3 On Your Side, I wouldn't have gotten this resolution at all, so I am very happy, very pleased," Edwards said.

These facility charges are becoming more and more frequent. So, it's worthwhile to double check with your doctor’s office. If you don't, you could get stuck with the hospital's facility fee.

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Copyright 2017 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


Gary HarperGary Harper is the senior consumer and investigative reporter for 3 On Your Side at KTVK-TV.

Click to learn more about Gary.

Gary Harper
3 On Your Side

With more than 20 years of television experience, Gary has established himself as a leader in the industry when it comes to assisting viewers and resolving their consumer-related issues. His passion and enthusiasm have helped him earn an Emmy for Best Consumer Reporter from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. He’s also garnered several Emmy nominations

He has negotiated resolutions with companies of all sizes, including some of the biggest corporations in the nation.

Gary has successfully recouped more than $1 million for viewers around the state, making 3 On Your Side one of the most popular segments on KTVK and the station's Web site.

He's best known for investigating and confronting unscrupulous contractors. In fact, many of his news reports have led to police investigations and jail time for those who were caught. Viewers, as well as the companies and people he investigates, regard him as consistently being thorough and fair.

Gary has been with KTVK-TV since 1997. Prior to his arrival in Phoenix, he worked for WZZM-TV in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he was as an anchor and reporter.

Gary is from Chicago, but launched his television career in Lubbock, Texas, after earning a broadcast journalism degree from Texas Tech University. Following his graduation, he was quickly hired by KLBK-TV in Lubbock, where he enterprised and broke numerous exclusive reports. His aggressive reporting in Texas helped garner him Best Reporter by the Associated Press.

Gary has been married since 1994 and is the proud father of two sons. When he's not helping viewers, Gary is busy catching up on his favorite college and professional football teams as well as cheering on his beloved Texas Tech Red Raiders.

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