Lawmakers will not immediately move to restrict so-called facility fees charged by hospitals but may form a task force to examine the issue this summer.

A bill sponsored by Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash would have restricted and in some cases prohibited hospitals from charging fees they say are necessary to pay for uncompensated costs, such as hospital operations and staffing.

Senate President Troy Jackson and Ann Woloson, executive director of Mainers for Affordable Health Care, hold a news conference about L.D. 1795 on Thursday. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Jackson drafted the bill in response to an investigation published last summer by the Press Herald that revealed how some health care providers are adding – and in some cases hiding – surcharges called facility fees to patients’ bills. Those fees can add hundreds or thousands of dollars in unexpected costs and are not always reimbursed by insurance companies, pushing the costs on patients.

On Wednesday, the Health Coverage, Insurance and Financial Services Committee voted unanimously in support of an amendment to Jackson’s bill that would refer the issue to a task force comprised of lawmakers and representatives from affordable health care and patient advocacy groups, hospitals and insurance carriers.

Maine is one of at least five states studying facility fees, and the group will be tasked with studying the use and impacts of facilities fees, and reviewing efforts underway in other states to restrict them, Jackson’s office said.

“Creating this task force is an important way to make sure these fees are under control and clear to consumers – without shifting the charges elsewhere on a patient’s bill,” Jackson said in a written statement. “I look forward to hearing the task force’s recommendations and taking needed action during the next legislative session. ”


L.D. 1795, which was co-sponsored by House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross, D-Portland, would have banned facility fees from outpatient clinics and other non-hospital locations. For certain procedures, hospitals also would be barred from charging facility fees.

It also would have directed the Department of Health and Human Services to create a list of services that could be subject to facility fees and issue an annual report to the Legislature.

During a hearing on the original bill, patients and patient advocates called for restrictions, while a representative for Maine’s hospitals warned the fees are needed to support hospital operations.

Patients and affordable health care advocates urged lawmakers to restrict the use of the fees and to increase transparency about when there are charges and why.

A Bangor resident told lawmakers in written testimony that just over half of her $9,000 bill for an ER visit was a facility fee and she only spent about five minutes in the exam room, where she received antibiotics and Tylenol for a stomach pains she thought was appendicitis.

A representative of the Maine Hospital Association warned that restricting, or prohibiting, facility fees would be “financially devastating,” since the fees are the only way hospitals can cover the costs of uncompensated services, and restricting them could lead to unintended consequences.


“This will close numerous services all across the state,” Jeff Austin, the group’s vice president of governmental affairs, said a public hearing this month.

Ann Woloson, executive director of Mainers for Affordable Health Care, a nonprofit advocacy group that backed Jackson’s original bill, said Thursday that she supports creating a task force to study the issue and balance the needs of patients and hospitals.

“This is not a set back, but a reasonable approach to better understand the issue,” Woloson said. “The task force provides an opportunity to better understand how facility fees are determined and when they are charged and also to address concerns Mainers have about these fees.”

The proposal to create the task force will face votes in the full Legislature.

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