Assembly member Kevin A. Cahill announced new guidance issued by the New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS) regarding coronavirus related service fees charged by medical and dental offices.
DFS, the state entity responsible for overseeing insurers operating in New York, announced Aug. 6 that practitioners cannot pass the cost of personal protective equipment (PPE) or sanitizing office equipment to their patients’ bill. Per this instruction, health care providers are advised to refund collected monies to consumers. Additionally, insurers that have processed such payments prior to the issuance of these guidelines are instructed to report to the state within 90 days of the letter’s publication how much providers charged in extra fees, the number of consumers affected, and a description as to how refunds will be disbursed.
“When visiting a doctor’s or dentist’s office, we should have a clear expectation of all expenses, including any out-of-pocket costs. The fees in question are not expressly outlined in insurance contracts and therefore breach the policy-holder agreement. This new mandate will protect consumers from the possibility of price-gouging, which is a common deterrent to individuals seeking medical assistance. As chair of the Assembly Insurance Committee, my staff and I will continue to monitor the situation as the pandemic remains in order to ensure residents are not wrongly charged,” Cahill said.
A press release said, “The issue of surprise billing was recently championed by Cahill during the 2019 legislative session as measures were taken to prevent hospitals from placing excessive fees on out-of-network patients and provide consumers with the confidence they deserve in seeking health care.”
Those who have been charged a service fee related to COVID-19 sanitization or social distancing practices are encouraged to contact their provider for a refund. Consumers, including those uninsured who paid a service fee out of pocket, can additionally file a complaint with DFS by going to https://www.dfs.ny.gov/complaint or by calling 518-474-6600. Health providers and insurers can access the change in guidelines at https://www.dfs.ny.gov/industry_guidance/circular_letters/cl2020_14.