Can My Doctor Charge Extra for That? The 3 Times You Might Pay More

Copies of forms? Late-night phone calls? What you do—and don't—have to pay for at the doctor's office.

july aug 2015 aol health doctor chargesDan Saelinger/Trunk ArchiveShould I be billed for calls and e-mails with my doctor?
Not usually. When insurance pays for an appointment, follow-up is considered part of the original visit. But if you were to phone months later about something else, you could be charged. Medicare suggests that doctors advise patients of those charges in advance.

Do I have to pay for copies of my health records?
Yes. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) lets providers covered by it charge a “reasonable, cost-based fee” for making protected health information available. Charges may include costs for photocopying, supplies, postage, and preparing a summary (rather than a full record). This also applies to forms for camp and school physicals and those for disability, gym releases, and family medical leave. But it’s unethical for a doctor to withhold records because of an unpaid balance.

Am I responsible for payment if I don’t show up?
Yes. No-show rates range from 5 to 55 percent, an inconvenience that has prompted many practices—with the blessing of Medicare and other insurers—to charge patients who fail to cancel appointments within a specified window (usually 24 hours). I know many doctors who request credit card information before the first visit and notify new patients of that policy, telling them to call or e-mail to cancel.

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