You’re in the hospital, mending from surgery, and a friendly doctor shows up to ask how you’re doing.

You shouldn’t have to wonder if that doctor is on rounds for the hospital or on the hunt for some extra pay. But patients around the country are seeing unexpected charges pop up on hospital bills from a practice called “drive-by doctoring.”

Sometimes a second physician assists in a surgery without a patient’s prior knowledge. Sometimes a fully trained physician performs tasks that can easily be done by a nurse. Sometimes hospitals are the problem, requiring doctors to perform services that patients don’t need and doctors don’t recommend.

Many of these physicians are outside of a patient’s insurance network. That means they can bill for a much higher charge. The New York Times, which reported on the practice, cited a patient who received a bill for $117,000 after surgery from an “assistant surgeon” whom he’d never met.

Insurance companies, aided by state legislatures, must fight this greedy practice. Insurers who pay hefty charges not previously agreed upon will end up passing those costs along to consumers in the form of higher premiums. Legislatures should consider measures such as New York’s “surprise bill law.”

Fortunately, “drive-by doctoring” hasn’t yet taken root in a big way.

But combating avarice is one of the U.S. health care system’s greatest challenges. Consumers, regulators and public officials must remain vigilant.

Editorial by the Kansas City Star