Lawsuit claims Novant Health charged patient $2,000 ‘visitation fee’ for ER visit

CHARLOTTE — Novant Heath is facing a class-action lawsuit, which accused the hospital of charging at least one patient a $2,000 “visitation fee” when she visited the emergency room.

The lawsuit, which was filed in mid-December on behalf of Micandria Darroux, claims Novant is charging a hidden fee for ER visits.

She went to the ER in Charlotte on Jan. 16, 2021. Later, a bill showed up on the mail showing a total charge of $4,116.65. The total included a “visitation fee” of approximately $2,000. Channel 9 later learned this is called a “facility fee.”

The lawsuit said that “visitation fee” came as a surprise, claiming Novant had used an “unfair, false, deceptive and unlawful practice of charging its emergency care patients and substantial, unagreed upon fee.”

Anchor John Paul talked to State Treasurer Dale Folwell who has been pushing for more transparent pricing with hospitals.

“As the state treasurer of North Carolina, as the largest purchaser of health care in this state, When I attempted to find out three years ago what we were paying for health care on behalf of those who teach, protect and otherwise serve, this is what was returned to me as your state treasurer,” Folwell said.

He said the prices were all blacked out, as seen in the photo below.

Folwell isn’t surprised by the lawsuit. He said they are becoming more common because so many people are being crushed by large bills.

Healthcare cost and healthcare billings are the leading causes of bankruptcy in the United States. He wants hospitals to be more up front with their pricing and cost.

According to the lawsuit, the fee is “not explained or disclosed in advance of it being incurred.”

It was also billed separately, Darroux’s attorney claims.

The lawsuit said Novant “has no right to assess a visitation fee that is not mentioned in its contract and where there is no agreement to pay such fee.”

Channel 9 reached out to the attorney Monday, but they did not respond.

Statement from Novant Health:

“We strongly disagree with the claims made in this lawsuit and intend to vigorously defend ourselves against them. The charge in question, which is billed using nationally standardized CPT Codes for “emergency department visit for the evaluation and management of a patient,” is what we charge for evaluating and managing patients in the emergency room. We deliver wide-ranging, life-saving emergency care 365 days a year, 24 hours a day anyone who comes through our hospital doors regardless of their ability to pay.”

What is a hospital facility fee?

(Action 9′s Jason Stoogenke explains what a facility fee is, in the video above.)

Novant said the fee is something they charge people when they visit the ER.

Many hospitals charge what is called a facility fee.

It’s the basic baseline fee for being seen in the ER.

Some people believe it’s for walking through the door, but that’s not quite accurate.

You have to actually seek help to some degree, including getting checked in and having a room.

Hospitals will tell you it’s the price for having a facility that’s always ready for any emergency, big or small, 24/7.

Typically, there are five levels depending on how severe the emergency is with Level 5 the highest and Level 1 the lowest.

Some hospitals post the fees online that go with each category.

After the facility fee, patients get charged for treatment and medication.

Novant Health said the fee is something they charge people when they visit the ER.

Novant Health and Atrium Health have not responded to Channel 9′s request to learn how much the hospital systems charge.

(WATCH BELOW: Novant uses new 3D technology to find the source of irregular heartbeats)

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