Can Doctors Charge Me For Phone Calls or Disability and FMLA Forms?

Dr Wes had a great post up  about new fees doctors will be charging for phone calls and filling out paper work through the internal medicine department at Northwestern Medical Faculty Foundation in Chicago.   According to his post, at the department level, internists in this group will now start charging $25 for non emergent phone calls placed to their doctor outside of normal working business hours (8pm-5pm M-F), $25-$50 for filling out paperwork outside of an office visit, $50 for missed appointments without a days notice and $25 for online medical consultations.

Can these fees be avoided?  Yes, there is a catch on how to get out of paying for your phone call. Head on over to Dr Wes at the link above to find out how to avoid the fees. This is the type of service that all patients, at one time or another, expect physicians to provide without compensation.  Congratulations to Northwestern for standing up against a declining payment system that patients have long assumed get them free unlimited access to health care at all hours of the day and night.

It's about time that doctors started to stand up for themselves and stop letting patients and insurance companies abuse their time.  When I refinanced our home earlier this year, my lawyer charged me $50 for a one page form letter requested by the bank to clarify some issues. I think these stated physician fees are more than fair.  In fact, considering the fees associated with other professionals with post graduate degrees, these listed fees are actually quite a bit less than what should be charged for professional consultations.   If you want access, you're going to have to start paying for access.

As a hospitalist, I am often asked to fill out disability forms, a request which I kindly decline. I am not trained to make determinations on ability or disability.  That's better left for other doctors trained in that process.   I am however constantly asked to fill out Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) forms for the patient's daughter who says she needs eight weeks off from the widget plant so she can stay with daddy after his surgery to fix the bone chip in his pinky toe. Is there away to convince doctors to fill out FMLA paperwork without paying them?

I heard a story about how to get the doctor to fill out  Family Medial Leave Act (FMLA) paperwork as soon as possible. I think it would apply nicely to hospitalists too. I over heard office staff at a local clinic discussing this very issue.
Clinic Staff:  We had this guy come in last week with a whole pile of cream cheese and bagels  begging us to fill out his FMLA paper work before the end of the day.  I'll tell you what, if you want to get your FMLA paper work done fast, just bring in food.  You want to get anything done around here, just bring in food.
There you have it folks.  Forget about money.  It's about bartering and bribery these days.  Bring in some bagels for the hospitalists and I guarantee you will jump to the front of the line with your FMLA or disability or charity care paperwork. 

If food isn't your doctor's thing, I'd love to hear a good reason why doctors shouldn't charge for such requests.  I'd like to send my congratulations Northwestern's way.  I hope they've started something big. Perhaps they should charge $500 instead of $50.  One reader found The Happy Hospitalist by typing in " my doctor is charging me $500.00 to fill out disability paperwork".  Wow.  What a brilliant doctor that is for removing themselves from the path of least resistance.  Perhaps patients should get a job to help offset the cost of their disability paperwork fees, as this medical ecard helps to explain with clarity.

"I had to get another job just to pay for my doctor's disability paperwork fee.  Who does he think he is?"

I had to get another job just to pay for my doctor's disability paperwork fee.  Who does he think he is ecard humor photo.

And how about life insurance forms? Can doctors charge for those too? Here's one personal experience.  I received a request to fill out the medical portion of a proof of benefits from a patient that passed away in the hospital.  Requesting the information was the Allstate Workplace Division for a Walmart group critical illness claim form.  Since this duty has nothing to do with providing medical care under their health insurance benefits, there is no way to receive payment from their health insurance company for my time to fill out this form.  Filling out this form involves my time to review the chart and I also face risk of prosecution for not providing accurate information.  Stated right by my signature:
"Remember, it is a crime to fill out this form with facts you know are false or to leave out facts you know are relevant and important.  Check to be sure that all information is correct before signing.  Please refer to page 3 for notice specific to your state."
So I called the only number available on the form 1-800-514-9525 and spoke with a lady.  I told her I was a physician filling out paper work for a life insurance claim.  I asked her if I could obtain some contact information on whom to bill for my time spent filling out the form.  She told me they were a supplemental policy company and all claims payments go directly to the beneficiary.
So I said, "Are you telling me I must bill the beneficiary for payment".  And she said, "That is correct".    
I know it's crass to send the grieving wife a bill for her life insurance benefit. But there is a lot about death that is unpleasant.  The mortician bills the wife.  The estate lawyer bills the wife.  Why shouldn't the physician bill the wife for their time spent filling out these unpleasant forms?

Some of this post is for entertainment purposes only and likely contains humor only understood by those in a healthcare profession. Read at your own risk.

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