We the Patients

Nickel and Dimed to Death Over a $142 Facility Fee – Sintora Simpson, NYC

Sintora went in for a breast exam at Chelsea Medical Center at Mount Sinai. She signed all routine medical documents, paid her copay, saw her doctor, and had her exam. Or so she thought.

Next came a $142 facility fee.

Sintora told the doctor’s office she would NOT pay the bill. She pointed out, “if she had known they would charge her an additional fee, she would have just gone somewhere else.” As a consumer, we aren’t taught to look out for hidden fees when we go to the doctors. “If there is one place you should feel safe, it’s your doctor’s office. This felt like a sneak attack,” said Sintora.

Mt. Sinai fought back, telling her she signed a waiver allowing their office to charge a facility fee. If she did not want to pay, her insurance company, Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS), had to pay. BCBS responded and told Sintora to write a letter telling the insurance company why they needed to pay the fee. “I felt like I was ping-ponging between my insurance and the doctor,” Sintora said.

She did not write a letter to BCBS.

“Why should I have to write them a letter? They are a multi-million-dollar company and they are nickel and diming people to death? It already costs so much to see a doctor, you pay for insurance, the co-pay, and now an additional fee? No way.”

Sintora refused to bend to her insurance or doctor’s office scare tactics. She held strong even when aggressive calls from debt collectors began to flood her phone. Eventually, BCBS paid the facility fee.

Now she asks every doctor’s office, do you charge a facility fee?

She reads every waiver form carefully.  She checks with the administrative staff about any hidden fees or charges. She even declined to sign a waiver when she went back to Mt. Sinai. She read it over and it stated she would be responsible for a facility fee again.  She already experienced fighting a facility fee “she’s not going through it again.”

Ultimately, she doesn’t know who she is more frustrated with, her insurance company for fighting with her to pay a small fee. Or her doctor’s office for what felt like a sneaky practice of slipping in an additional fee.