The Hidden Fees in 'Free' Preventive Care
January 22, 2014
Katie Sullivan
One of the regulations of the Affordable Care Act is to provide access to free preventive care, but many Americans are discovering that there are coverage exceptions and additional fees that come with certain services. Now, policymakers are pushing for federal guidelines that would make the rules of “free” services more clear.

Several lawmakers wrote to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), warning that the agency was “falsely marketing specific services provided through Medicare,” adding, “While we identified problems with the press release outlined above, we were encouraged that the release included a more specific and accurate statement in discussing how many people received 'at least 1 preventative service at no cost to them.’ It is more accurate to discuss the lack of cost-sharing for a beneficiary than to suggest there are no costs borne to taxpayers.”

Joanne Peters, HHS spokesperson, said that despite those concerns, the department is continuing “to monitor how the preventive services provisions are being carried out, and we are working with stakeholders to ensure they understand our guidance and to offer further clarity to them when needed.”

Some hospitals charge for facility fees or other coding that falls outside preventive screening and tests. For instance, a recent report found that patients had been charged for services related to a colonoscopy, but not the screening itself. In another account, 1 woman discovered she was billed for “facility fees” during a routine eye exam.

Robert Zirkelbach, a spokesman for America's Health Insurance Plans, said that “it's important that patients have information up front” about costs.

Around the Web

Consumers Expecting Free 'Preventive' Care Sometimes Surprised By Charges [Kaiser Health News]

GOP Senators Want HHS to Clarify Who's Paying for 'Free' Services [Modern Healthcare]

'Facility Fees' Are Surprise Cost For Many Patients [Kaiser Health News]