ConsumerWatch: More Doctors Tack On Administrative Fees

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A doctor consults with a patient inside an exam room. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

CBS SF Bay (con't)

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MILL VALLEY (CBS 5) – Millions of Americans have been hit with higher premium prices, but now some may be facing an extra charge by their physican.

Dr. Curtis Robinson from Mill Valley said he joined a growing number of doctors charging patients an annual administrative fee to operate his office. Robinson said annual fee is to recover the time his assistants spend filing claims with insurers, emailing patients and assisting patients with any concerns.

Although Robinson admits losing some patients, people can sympathize for the most part. “Patients and the public are understanding that the high premiums that their giving to insurance companies are not being given back to physicians who are offering the services,” said Robinson.

But some insurance companies are opposed to having doctors charge an annual fee. Insurance companies argue it violates their contracts by charging for services that are already covered in their policies.

In fact, Robinson said he received a letter from Blue Cross accusing him of fraud. “All the things we have asked the patients to pay in our annual administrative fee are non covered services and if the insurance companies were to pay for these services then we really wouldn’t be in this conversation at all,” Robinson said.

Moreover, according to Robinson, he got permission from the Department of Managed Health Care to charge fees for phone consultations and or for placing pharmacy orders and refills.

Consumer advocate Amy Bach from United Policyholders said even though doctors are being forced to charge an annual fee, some would give patients a discount off the fee or waive it entirely, depending on the physician.

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