5 On Your Side

Duke 'Hospital' Charge for Office Visit Riles Patient's Mom

Posted June 13, 2007

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— Few people really enjoy going to the doctor, and deciphering the bill can be an additional challenge.

When a Wake County viewer was frustrated about how she was billed, she called Five on Your Side's Monica Laliberte.

Cindy Veit was frustrated about a hospital fee she and thousands of other patients have to pay.

“This is the first time I've decided to do something about it because I'm sick of it,” Veit said.

A specific health issue requires Cindy Veit to take her daughter, Abbey, to Dr. Herbert Fuchs. He sees patients only at Duke's Children's Health Center.

Veit pays a $30 co-pay after the appointment, but the bill that comes to her home shows more for the visit and an additional $100 charge for an "outpatient/clinic" facility fee. She said she feels that fee is unfair.

“They tell me that the clinic is owned by Duke, so they're billing it as an outpatient medical visit. So what I think is a normal office visit is actually an outpatient visit, so the doctor fee is reimbursed differently by my insurance, and they can charge me a facility fee,” Veit said.

The bottom line is that instead of paying $30, as she would for any specialist, she pays $124 after insurance reimbursements simply because the doctor sees patients inside a Duke clinic.

It appears Veit isn't the only one complaining about the added fee.

“I said, ‘Do you know what I'm calling about?’ She's like, ‘Oh yeah.’ And I said, ‘It's regarding the fee.’ She's like, “Oh yeah, we get the call all the time.’” Veit said.

Five on Your Side called Duke, and the hospital dropped all the charges except for the $30 co-pay.

Fuchs said he's "not thrilled" with the fee and has raised concerns about it, but added that he cannot change it.

Veit said she wants Duke to make a permanent change that will benefit everyone.

After waiting almost a month for a response from Duke, a spokesman e-mailed 5 on Your Side on Wednesday afternoon to say that the charge is to "cover expenses." He added that Duke's nine other hospital-based clinics also charge the fee.

32 Comments

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  • thewayitis Jun 15, 2007

    I think people should be entitled to see a bill for every service they receive -- this is the case in every other industry EXCEPT healthcare -- why should healthcare be any different? Why don't our lawmakers ensure that we can get an accurate bill for every healthcare service we receive? What is so hard about that?

    And none of these big hospitals want to even talk with you about your bills. When I was in the hospital to deliver a baby, my husband wanted to meet with somebody to discuss a bill for my maternity service. He had to jump through many hoops to meet with somebody in person to work out a problem. And the person pretty much told him never to contact her again! Is that not ridiculous or what? Here you are, you want to take care of a bill, and the billing people won't discuss it with you? What other business could get away with that cr*p? Sheesh - when I asked to talk with a financial counselor after having my baby, they sent me a social services counselor instead, LOL.

  • thewayitis Jun 15, 2007

    Hmmm, makes me wonder. I go to the Duke Rheumatology clinic, and never see a bill. The clinic is connected to the hospital, now I wonder if I (my insurance) pays that fee? It really bugs me that I never get itemized statements -- ever since HIPPA, I never see the details anymore. Once I called, and the hospital (this was UNC) told me that they couldn't share some billing info with me, even though I was the patient. At the same time, the insurance company was asking ME to check on the code with the hospital, but neither would share specific info with me, even though I was a patient. It was very frustrating. The whole healthcare industry is a scam! There is no way to monitor costs and find mistakes if you don't even get a bill!

  • americangirl Jun 15, 2007

    I had a bill come from Duke for a considerable amount with no detailed information, when I called them to ask what it was for they said they did not have that information. Then they turned it over to collections again when I asked what the charges were for or at least if they could mail an itemized bill it would be helpful, they said they could not but I needed to pay it. So, basically they were telling me you owe this much but we don't know what it is for. I refuse to pay for something just because they say I owe it.

  • dsdaughtry Jun 15, 2007

    medical fees are a scam anyhow because we never know what the charge is until after we check out. co-pays are just a way of letting us know that we will pay later for something insurance wont cover and didnt entirely cover. healthcare and dental care in america is just as confusing as taxes; except with taxes you at least stand a chance of getting money back each year. with healthcare you never end up getting a check back from a provider. more than likely they want more money.

  • crumpscgirl Jun 15, 2007

    My husband had a heart attack last January 2006 and was at Raleigh Community Hospital(owned by Duke Healthcare) for about 35 minutes and our bill was around $9300- for monitors and a nitroglycere tablet. We had to be sent to Rex Hospital because they did not have a Cardiac Unit to care for him. This was a rip off and I have written letters to upper management and never received a response. I tell everone I know how they rip people off. I would not recommend the Duke Healthcare system to anyone, their billing department will not even respond to any questions that you have. Rex hospital worked with us on our portion of the bill on paying it. They are the best.

  • logan45 Jun 15, 2007

    For those of you that say , "Find another Doctor", It's not that easy. The ONLY Pediatric GI doctors are at UNC or DUKE. Children with chronic illnesses need doctor that specialize in their disease and specialize with children. So we are struck like other parents who want the best healthcare for your children which any of you would. The insurance industry is a scam along with the medical industry. We pay our insurance and they hardly cover anything. We have to pay out the nose because my husband is self employed and have to use Blue Cross. Our premiums are outrageous.

  • abf1 Jun 15, 2007

    It's always all about the money...we get nickeled and dimed all the time. Those who are honest pay for those who aren't. That stinks!

  • casp3r Jun 14, 2007

    Just tell them no speaka englis and dont give them any information. Problem solved.

  • smcallah Jun 14, 2007

    I have to take my daughter to a heart specialist annually. The specialist office is based at Wake Med, and they do not have an office outside of that.

    I never am charged an extra fee because we have to go to Wake Med. And I'm on UHC, which isn't even accepted at Wake Med. But the specialist takes UHC.

  • TriangleMommy Jun 14, 2007

    The entire Duke Children's Health Center is very frustrating. Sure we have access to great doctors. But we do not have the option of seeing those doctors in a "Regular" doctor office setting. We are forced to pay the outpatient fees, because this is the only way we can get to this level of medical expertise.

    All parents who visit the CHC at Duke are sick and tired of the billing practices. But we want the best doctors for our children. What are we going to do but pay the $$. Seems like Duke (and UNC) know they have us over a barrel!

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