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Report: Arizonans should be cautious with facility fees

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(Arizona News Connection) A new report from the Arizona PIRG Education Fund finds that Arizonans are getting hit with what are known as facility fees, leading to higher costs for medical care.

Maribeth Guarino, health-care advocate with PIRG, said facility fees can be thought of as a flat charge, added to a patient's bill only for stepping through the door of a doctor's office to seek care. She said facility fees are arbitrary and cost anywhere between a few dollars and thousands of dollars.

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"We're seeing them more because hospitals are buying up independent clinics, physician's offices and other independent provider care settings and then charging these fees as though they're hospital locations, even though nothing has changed except the logo and the letterhead," she explained.

According to Guarino, 15 states around the country, including Florida and Texas, have laws on the books relating to facility fees, but Arizona isn't one of them. She noted states could better prioritize patient protections by ensuring they're informed about the fee before receiving care. And while several federal proposals have been introduced to address the issue, none has made it to the president's desk.

Guarino said the Federal Trade Commission has issued a rule to prohibit what she terms "junk" fees, and hopes the Federal Trade Commission will apply that rule to items such as facility fees. And for patients, she recommends reviewing your bill after you have received care.

"And do your best to shop around, if you can, before you get services," she advised, "because even though there aren't always laws in place to protect patients, sometimes you'll be surprised how much information is out there if you just ask directly."

Guarino added there is no guarantee you'll get that answer, but it doesn't hurt to ask. She said patients should only pay for the services they receive, and providers need to be transparent about the fees they charge.