(Albany, NY) – Assemblymember Kevin A. Cahill (D-Ulster, Dutchess) announced new guidance issued by the NYS 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 August 6, 2020, that practitioners cannot pass the cost of personal protective equipment (PPE) or sanitizing office equipment to their patients’ bill. Per this instruction, healthcare 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,” said Assemblymember Cahill.
The issue of surprise billing was recently championed by Assemblymember 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 healthcare
(Chapter 375 of 2019). This legislation built off the progress made in the 2014-2015 State Budget related to preventing surprise medical bills and resolving disagreements between healthcare providers and health insurance plans in the event of an out-of-network physician visit (Chapter 60 of 2014).
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, should 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.