5 On Your Side

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

Posted June 13, 2007 8:35 p.m. EDT

— 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.