As patients grow more aware of specific fees listed on their healthcare bills due to increased cost, they’ve come to learn of a long-standing additional expense called a facility fee. The fee helps health systems offset costs to operate hospitals and outpatient clinics, along with access to support staff and doctors.
"The current healthcare insurance environment can often times include higher deductibles and co-pays that are the responsibility of the patient and they want to know the charges associated with their healthcare," said Deanna Hollenbach, public relations and communications manager at Evangelical Community Hospital in Lewisburg.
The cost of facility fees at two Valley hospitals vary according to officials, while Sunbury Community Hospital does not have a facility fee.
"Facility fees at Evangelical are not charged organization-wide, but rather at some of its hospital-based specialty/outpatient clinics," Hollenbach said. "The fees are not a flat rate, but rather vary for services and procedures depending on the extent of equipment, supplies, and support staff needed." She said insurance can help to cover facility fees depending on the insurance provider.
Michael Ferlazzo, a spokesman for Geisinger Health System, said Geisinger’s vary as well and may also be covered by insurance. "Prices vary and are dependent on resources provided during the visit," he said.
Sunbury Community Hospital does not have facility fees according to Deneen M. Porzi-Grow, medical staff coordinator/executive assistant at the hospital.
Facility fees are charged for services provided in hospitals, outpatient care centers, and doctor’s offices owned by large hospital systems. Ferlazzo said facility fees exist because "the hospital provides the needed infrastructure to the physician: the physical plant (space), office personnel for administrative duties, nursing, and resources dedicated to maintaining patient medical records, other information technology, medical equipment, supplies."
"These clinics are hospital-based services, meaning they are not physician practices but are medical services provided in collaboration with a physician," said Hollenbach. James Stopper, Chief Financial Officer at Evangelical said hospital facility fees aren’t widely used at Evangelical.
Some Evangelical outpatient centers that charge facility fees include the Center for Breast Health, the Wound and Hyperbaric Medicine clinic and the new Heart and Vascular Center.
Ferlazzo said Geisinger has a lot of facilities registered as outpatient departments across their service area. While patients may be charged for facility fees, hospital workers say it is to help offset the expense of running a large hospital system.
Hollenbach said that the hospital uses facility fees to give "care providers" a professional fee "which compensates them for their expertise and time in delivering the care." Additionally, the fee pays for the "equipment, building, supplies, personnel, and other costs associated with supporting the delivery of the care."
Stopper said that these fees ultimately help Evangelical Hospital "remain financially strong in the changing healthcare reimbursement landscape."
Ferlazzo notes Geisinger rarely sees complaints about the fee. "We explain the fees up front to patients, as early as scheduling of an appointment that will take place at a hospital-based clinic; or on site during the clinic visit. In addition, there are brochures and posters strategically located for patient awareness."
If patients are having difficulty paying, the hospital system has a financial counseling staff that "brings awareness of Geisinger’s uncompensated care policy for our patients in need of assistance," Ferlazzo said.
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