Brittany Tesso, Colorado

When Brittany Tesso’s then-3-year-old son, Roman, needed an evaluation for speech therapy in 2021, his pediatrician referred him to Children’s Hospital Colorado in Aurora. With in-person visits on hold due to the covid-19 pandemic, the Tessos met with a panel of specialists via video chat.

The specialists, some of whom appeared to be calling from their homes, observed Roman speaking, playing with toys, and eating chicken nuggets. They asked about his diet.

Tesso thought the $676.86 bill she received for the one-hour session was pretty steep. When she got a second bill for $847.35, she assumed it was a mistake. Then she learned the second bill was for the costs of being seen in a hospital — the equipment, the medical records, and the support staff.

“I didn’t come to your facility,” she argued when disputing the charges with a hospital billing representative. “They didn’t use any equipment.”

This is the facility fee, the hospital employee told her, and every patient gets charged this.

“Even for a telehealth consultation?” Tesso laughed in disbelief, which soon turned into anger.

Millions of Americans are similarly blindsided by hospital bills for doctor appointments that didn’t require setting foot inside a hospital. Hospitals argue that facility fees are needed to pay for staff and overhead expenses, particularly when hospitals don’t employ their own physicians. But consumer advocates say there’s no reason hospitals should charge more than independent clinics for the same services.

Read the full KFF Health News Story.

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