AUGUSTA – On Wednesday, the Legislature’s Health Coverage, Insurance and Financial Services Committee unanimously endorsed legislation from Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, to create a task force studying the use of facility fees in health care settings.
As amended, LD 1795, “An Act to Protect Patients by Prohibiting Certain Medical Facility Fees,” would convene a task force including legislators, a representative of AARP, and other advocates for affordable health care, along with representatives of insurance and hospitals, to study the industry practices on facility fee charges and legislation passed in other states. The Task Force would report back recommendations for possible legislation before the second session of the 131st Legislature.
“When someone is seeking medical care- especially in stressful situations- they should not be thinking about how to navigate fees they don’t even know exist. Not only are you worried about your health but you have to navigate complex health care systems, coordinate with insurance companies and deal with rising costs. Even if you have health insurance and have done your research, you still end up getting nickeled and dimed at every turn,” said President Jackson. “Creating this Task Force is an important way to make sure these fees are under control and clear to consumers- without shifting the charges elsewhere on a patient’s bill. I look forward to hearing the Task Force’s recommendations and taking needed action during the next legislative session. ”
Facility fees are charges that are not directly related to a patient’s care but help cover the cost of running the facility in which they received care. These fees are often included in a patient’s bill.
Maine is one of five states examining the use of facility fees and their role in driving up health care costs. Facility fees can raise the cost of care by hundreds of dollars, and it is difficult for patients to determine what the final bill will amount to before receiving care. This is true even when patients have checked in with their insurance company prior to an appointment.
In Maine, rising health care costs remain a key barrier to care for families. A recent poll from Maine Consumers for Affordable Health Care found that more than one in three Mainers have avoided seeking care due to cost. However, the survey also found that medical bills and medical debt continue to make it harder for Mainers to get by. The survey found that four out of ten Mainers have some sort of medical debt in their household.
LD 1795 will now face initial votes before the full Legislature. The measure is supported by Maine Consumers for Affordable Health Care, the Office of Affordable Health Care and the United States of Care.