10/24/2012 12:36 pm ET

Doug Rischbieter, California Man, Charged $164 Fee For Putting Off Doctor Visit

Have you been putting off going to the doctor? Apparently, now there’s a fee for that.

Doug Rischbieter of Arnold, Calif., made an appointment with a doctor he hadn’t seen in five years. The day of the appointment, the hospital switched the doctor he was supposed to see and slapped him with a $164 “new patient fee,” CBS Sacramento’s Kurtis Ming reported. Rischbieter was forced to pay the fee out of pocket because it was not covered by his insurance.

Although Rischbieter technically was not a new patient, UC Davis Medical Center told him that they charge anyone who has not been in the office for three years. And he's not alone.

Recently in Minnetonka, Minn., Susan Krantz found a perplexing $50.06 fee tacked on to her doctor’s bill for a “split visit” charge, CBS Minnesota reported. It turns out that the hospital added the fee after Krantz asked the doctor for something outside the scope of the primary reason for her visit.

“You can be charged an extra office visit if you ask too many questions,” she told CBS Minnesota. “I said I don’t understand that, because isn’t that what this visit is for?"

In August, David Hubbard of Reno, Nev., paid more than four times what he typically paid for a routine heart scan and had to pay about $1,000 out of pocket, the Wall Street Journal reported. The reason? His hospital had been bought by a private practice increasing the cost of his service.

The confusion surrounding hospital pricing is something that affects many Americans each year. A study conducted by Dr. Renee Y. Hsia, an assistant professor of emergency medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, found that fees for a routine appendectomy in California ranged from $1,500 to $182,955, the New York Times reported

“There’s no rhyme or reason for how patients are charged or how hospitals come up with charges,” he told the Times.

The cost of physician care has gone up 1.3 percent during the past year, CNNMoney reports. While doctors are stuck with fees that are pre-negotiated with insurance companies, insurers are shifting more of the payment onto patients through higher deductibles, co-insurance and co-payments.

When asked to respond to Rischbieter's surprising fee, a representative from UC Davis Medical Center told CBS Sacremento that it was a “fair reflection of the additional time and resources required to get completely up-to-date on a patient who hasn’t been seen in more than three years.” The hospital representative also said that “the charge is common nationwide.”

(h/t Consumerist)



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