Imagine it is Valentine’s day and instead of heading to town to your favorite upscale Italian restaurant you decide to stay in and create a super-romantic evening with a food delivery order of your favorite antipasti, primi piatti and secondi piatti. Next morning you check the receipt of your order and, aside from the delivery fee and taxes you find another extra line item — valet parking: $15.
Incensed, you call the restaurant, where the friendly manager explains that having good valets and paying for the premium parking spots at a nearby lot is an expense that they still have to pay for, even though you are not using it. “These are tough times,” he exclaims.
In my Telehealth Tuesday column I usually don’t veer into the political or policy waters. I’d rather be a pragmatic voice providing practical guidance on how to get the most value out of out telehealth.
Yet, occasionally a story comes across my news feed that warrants talking about. Especially when conduct like the one I’m about to describe has the potential of hurting the reputation of telehealth.
You Sound Surprised
Surprise billing in healthcare has been covered quite a bit in recent years and last year congress even passed the “No Surprises Act” to limit unexpected out-of-network charges. And it’s not a small problem: Two out of every three people filing for bankruptcy do so due to the cost associated with medical issues.
But an unexpected out-of-network bill is not what surprised the mom of a 3-year old who required a 2-hour observation by clinicians in Colorado to assess whether he needed speech therapy. No, what surprised her was a bill for a “facility fee” for her telehealth visit from the comfort of her home.
That’s like your hairdresser charging a chair fee — or your favorite restaurant tagging on a valet fee for every customer.