This One Sneaky Fee Might Be Inflating Your Medical Bills

Here's how to avoid it — and what to do if it shows up on your bill.

busy doctor's office
Updated June 17, 2024
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Imagine visiting a local doctor’s office or clinic for a flu test—and then your bill arrives with a $150 charge for a “facility fee.” This is a growing problem for patients, adding a surprising amount to already hefty medical bills in the U.S.

As doctors and various outpatient healthcare facilities align with larger hospital networks, these fees, intended to cover a hospital's operational costs, have become all too common. But the problem? Patients are often caught off guard, as these fees are rarely explained upfront.

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Read on for more info about how to spot these fees, how to fight back, and what to look out for going forward.

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Spotting a “facility fee”

spotmatikphoto/Adobe doctors walking through hospital corridor

When you get your medical bill, look closely at the breakdown of charges. These facility fees are separate from the actual fee your doctor charges to see you and can range from $50 to several hundred dollars. 

They’re supposed to cover things like hospital maintenance and utilities — but some patients report being charged facility fees even for telehealth visits. 

Why they're unfair

Joyfotoliakid/Adobe window in the hospital

Many patients are baffled by these fees — especially when they’re tacked on a bill for a telehealth visit that takes place in their own home. Bills can sometimes contain hundreds or thousands of dollars worth of these fees, which the American Hospital Association argues are necessary. 

Still, most patients are seen without prior notice that these charges would apply.

How to fight back against facility fees

Spiroview Inc./Adobe direction signboard outside hospital building

If you find a facility fee on your bill, don’t just accept it — you have a few ways to fight it.

First, you can call the billing office. Ask for a detailed explanation and request the fee removal if it seems unjustified. 

If that’s unsuccessful, state healthcare advocates or consumer protection agencies can assist you in disputing these charges. 

Finally, know your rights — some states, like Connecticut, have banned facility fees for telehealth visits.

What to watch out for

Syda Productions/Adobe old man and doctor with prescription at hospital

You can keep an eye out for these fees by watching for a few red flags.

If your doctor’s practice gets bought by a hospital, you might start seeing facility fees on your bills. Remember that even virtual visits can incur these fees, so be prepared and ask about any potential charges when scheduling your appointment.

Bottom line

Paolese/Adobe hospital hallway

Hospital facility fees can inflate already-pricy medical costs, so stay informed and proactive by scrutinizing your bills and challenging unfair charges.

While consumer advocate groups are actively fighting to eliminate these fees, it's easy for them to sneak up on your bill.

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Author Details

Laura Ratliff

Laura Ratliff is a writer and editor based in New York. Her writing expertise spans numerous topics, including insurance, travel, food and drink, and reported pieces covering political and human rights issues. She has previously worked at Architectural Digest, Bloomberg News, and Condé Nast Traveler.