A scab on 23-year-old Chase Wheaton-Werle’s wrist wasn’t healing, so he went to a doctor, who pronounced it was nothing serious and removed the lesion.
Chase’s mother, Laura Wheaton-Werle of Kansas City, Missouri, received a bill for $202. “That’s what I would expect from a physician,” she told WDAF-TV. She later received a $746 bill from Truman Medical Center, which her son never visited.
“When I called Truman Medical Center to ask them about this they said, 'Well he came to our hospital,'” Wheaton-Werle said. “No he didn’t. He was at the doctor’s office.”
It turns out Truman Medical Center owns the doctor’s office and the hefty bill was for a “facility fee,” which goes to the hospital.
Elizabeth Rowe, a biochemistry researcher who is married to a neurologist, said the practice is not uncommon. “It’s driven by the higher payments that are given to hospitals because hospitals can pay a doctor more than he makes in private practice,” she said, noting that it drives up the cost of health care.
“Anything that happens at a hospital setting is billed at a hospital rate,” Rowe said.
Kansas is considering a law that would require that patients be informed about extra frees from the hospitals that employ physicians.
Truman Medical Center agreed to cut Wheaton-Werle’s fee in half, but said it collects the fee to cover the additional services for physicians and prides itself on having some of the lowest fees in the country.
Wheaton-Werle is looking for another doctor and told KSHB that she’ll be more careful about fees. "There are people who will just say, 'Oh my gosh look at that,' and figure out how to pay that. But don't settle for that. Question what you're being charged," she said.
Image via WDAF-TV