The hospital’s “setup fee” is $847 — for a telemedicine visit

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AURORA, Colo. (KDVR) — When Brittany Tesso received a $676.86 medical bill from Children’s Hospital Colorado after a panel of doctors observed her son for two hours to see if he needed speech therapy, she found the amount extreme , but she paid for it.

But when she received a separate bill for $847.35 two weeks later, she was speechless.

“I can tell you now that if they had told me there was an $850 charge, essentially for a Zoom call, I would have gone elsewhere,” Tesso said.

Tesso and her 3-year-old son’s appointment was virtual, a telemedicine visit conducted from her home computer, but she was told the $847.35 bill was a setup fee.

“I was like, ‘Setup fee? I haven’t been to your facility. I was home and as far as I could tell some of the doctors were home too.’ And she said, “Well, we charge the same whether you come into the facility or it’s a telemedicine appointment,” Tesso said.

“It’s 100% a surprise bill”

Tesso was one of about 20 viewers who reached out to the Problem Solvers after watching our story Thursday night featuring centenarian father Michael Kark, who was charged a $503 facility fee after his son saw a doctor , not at Children’s Hospital Colorado, but in a doctor’s office building owned by Children’s Hospital Colorado.

“Anger and relief,” Tesso responded to the story. “I was angry because obviously this is happening to a lot of people and no one knows how to voice their concerns or get the public or the right person to notice it. And then a sense of relief that I was not alone and that someone was taking care of the problem.”

“That sounds essentially like gouging,” said Adam Fox, associate director of the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative. “It really costs a facility, ie the hospital, which they don’t even have access to.”

Fox told Problem Solvers that because Colorado has no regulations regarding facility fees charged by hospitals, consumers have no real redress.

“I find it quite sad and pathetic,” Tesso said. “State legislators could really forestall that. … They know they’re not allowed to make surprise calculations, but I think that’s it. It’s 100% a surprise bill.”

The children’s hospital reacts

Colorado House Minority Leader Hugh McKean, R-Loveland, contacted the Problem Solvers after seeing our story and said he is working on a bill that would bring more transparency to patient bills, although his measure is currently specific affects hospital provider fees, not facility fees.

Children’s Hospital Colorado did not address why it felt it appropriate to charge a $847 facility fee for a virtual visit or how that amount came about. In a statement, the hospital told FOX31:

This is not exclusively a Children’s Colorado issue, and we suggest that you speak to other providers, insurers, and legislators to get a broader perspective on the system that governs how we all work. We want affordable and accessible care for all of our patients, and we are constantly reviewing our own practices to see where we can adapt and improve while working to build a working children’s care system.

We agree that insurance coverage, healthcare fees, and healthcare costs in general can be confusing, frustrating, and don’t always make sense. To that end, we continue to advocate for state and federal policies that address concerns about consumer healthcare costs through more affordable and accessible insurance coverage and pricing transparency from hospitals and providers, while defending children’s access to care and the unique needs of a children’s hospital .

Children’s Hospital Colorado

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