HARTFORD, CT - Attorney General George Jepsen sent letters last week to the state’s hospitals seeking broad information about their acquisition of independent physician practices, free-standing ambulatory surgical centers and urgent care centers and seeking detailed descriptions of their disclosure of hospital affiliation and any facility fees charged to patients seeking care.
The letters ask all hospitals to provide his office with the name, address and specialty type of all affiliated providers; whether they provide their patients with fees that they charge in advance; and the specific types of disclosures they provide to patients. The Attorney General has requested responses by December 6, 2013.
“In order to understand the full scope of the issues surrounding practice acquisition and facility fees, I am urging Connecticut’s hospitals to cooperate with this request for information,” said Attorney General Jepsen. “Last month, I invited patients to be a part of this conversation by filing complaints with my office, and today I urge the state’s hospitals to contribute to this conversation as well. This information will assist me in crafting legislative proposals to ensure meaningful transparency for consumers concerning facility fees. More broadly, it will assist me in monitoring and protecting competition in the fast-evolving healthcare market.”
In September, Attorney General Jepsen announced his intent to seek legislation in the coming legislative session, beginning in February 2014, to require greater disclosure of hospital facility fees, which are included as an independent component of outpatient care fees, are intended to cover overhead costs and are in addition to the professional charges billed by the provider.
The Attorney General’s legislation will likely focus on those facility fees levied by off-campus hospital-based providers. There is concern that entities acquired by hospitals may not clearly disclose their affiliation with a hospital or the fact that they will charge a separate – and often expensive – facility fee which is intended to cover a portion of the hospital’s ongoing operating expenses.
Connecticut patients who have been billed for a so-called “facility fee” without notice from their healthcare provider when receiving medical treatment, or who were told they would be charged a facility fee but were not told the amount or experienced difficulty in learning the amount of the facility fee, are encouraged to file a complaint with the Office of the Attorney General using a form available on the office’s Web site or by calling 860-808-5355.
The Attorney General’s Healthcare Competition Working Group – Assistant Attorneys General Charles Hulin, Thomas Ryan, Rachel Davis, Gary Becker and Richard Porter – under the direction of Assistant Attorney General Michael Cole, chief of the Antitrust and Government Program Fraud department, and Special Counsel Robert Clark are assisting the Attorney General with this matter.