Bryan Cohen Sep. 20, 2013, 8:45pm

HARTFORD, Conn. (Legal Newsline) -- Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen said Thursday he intends to propose legislation that would ensure facility fees are disclosed to patients in advance of health care.

Jepsen said acquired entities like independent physician practices, urgent care centers and free-standing ambulatory surgical centers may not clearly disclose their affiliation with a hospital or the imposition of a separate and expensive facility fee.

The fee is in addition to professional charges billed by a provider and is meant to cover the overhead costs of a hospital.

"Patients, as health care consumers, should have the ability to make fully informed decisions when seeking care," Jepsen said in a staetment. "They deserve to know, in advance of any treatment or service, exactly what fees will be charged and for what services.

"It's a matter of fundamental fairness, and it's a significant problem for patients not only in Connecticut but across the country."

During the General Assembly's regular session next year, Jepsen will seek legislation, a Facility Fee Disclosure Act, that would require any off-campus, hospital-based provider charging a facility fee to disclose in writing the amount of a patient's possible financial liability.

The disclosure would include the specific amount of any facility fee. The proposed legislation also would ensure that off-campus, hospital-based providers indicate that the office is part of a certain hospital and charges separate facility and professional fees.

"Often, a patient does not know that the physician they've relied on for years or the urgent care center they visited just a few months ago has been acquired by a hospital and that they will now potentially be subject to additional facility fees," the attorney general said. "Suddenly, a procedure that was one price during their last visit now includes a separate charge that adds hundreds if not thousands of dollars to their bill.

"Equally disturbing, the patient may not learn of the facility fees until they show up for their treatment or when the bill shows up in their mailbox."

The regular legislative session for convenes Feb. 5. Jepsen said between now and then he would develop the legislation with stakeholders and legislators.

"Over the next several months, I plan to seek more information from hospitals about their practices with respect to these facility fees," the attorney general said. "In addition, I will be reaching out to legislators and stakeholders to work on crafting legislation that will provide meaningful transparency and cost information to consumers."

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