High Value Health Care

Maine passes facility fee disclosure bill

Maine passes new law that requires health care facilities to disclose whether it will charge a facility fee.

Man reviews health care bill for facility fee charges.

There is a growing trend in health care billing to add extra fees and charges to patient bills, like facility fees. A facility fee is an add-on charge usually added by hospitals anytime patients receive care. But now even doctor’s offices are adding “hospital facility fees” to bills for outpatient care or regular appointments. These fees are often as a surprise to patients, seen only when they get the bill, and can add hundreds of dollars to the total.

We recently released a report that showed how states are trying to protect patients from these outrageous fees, including MaineLast year, the state created a task force to investigate health care facility fees which made recommendations on how to protect patients from these unjustified charges. Now, the state legislature has turned some of the task force recommendations into a new law that requires health care facilities to disclose 1) when the provider is considered a hospital facility and 2) whether it will charge a facility fee. 

This law is a small step forward. Patients are less likely to be surprised at extra charges, but there are still no protections in place preventing these fees in the first place. The statute does not require disclosure of the actual amount of the fee. It still puts the burden on patients to find the disclosure and understand it. And the law excludes other task force recommendations such a ban on facility fee charges for telehealth services.

Notice alone is not enough; patients will not be able to avoid these fees and are bottom-line responsible for them. The best solution that Maine could have chosen was to simply prohibit these added charges entirely.

As our report shows, other states have passed laws that ban facility fees or require more explicit notice of the amount of the fee. Connecticut, for example, has a near-total ban on facility fees. While Maine’s law is another step towards transparency in health care costs, overall, there is more to be done to protect patients from facility fees.

Tell us your facility fee story.

Maribeth Guarino

Former High Value Health Care, Advocate, U.S. PIRG Education Fund

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