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It's Your Money: Hospital surcharges

Posted at: 02/20/2013 6:08 PM
Updated at: 02/20/2013 6:14 PM
By: Ray Levato

Did you know the state tacks a surcharge onto every hospital bill in New York? Even people who don't have health insurance have to pay it. And if you do have coverage, you end up paying for it in higher premiums.

The Health Care Reform Act slapped all hospital bills in New York with a 9.6% surcharge, essentially a tax. If you have private health insurance through work,  you probably never see a bill and would never see this surcharge. And if you don't have health care coverage, you do get a bill and you have to pay the surcharge out of your pocket.

On Tuesday, 25-year-old Samantha Scheffel says she got a hospital emergency room bill for a broken foot and saw our Facebook post asking about this surcharge.

Samantha Scheffel said, “I got the bill in the mail and saw the Facebook post and decided to open it and check it, and sure enough. There was a surcharge.”
   
Samantha's $400 emergency room bill came with a $40 surcharge. She's unable to work because of a car accident and says to her $40 is a lot of money.  Money that could be use to pay another bill.

The state's Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans say New York families and employers will pay $4.8 billion in hidden taxes and fees on their health insurance. $4.8 billion this year alone.

Scheffel said, “I mean, they're basically using the hospitals to get more money from us.  I'm dumbfounded I guess. You're pretty much using people who've just gotten hurt or who are physically ill to get more money for other things in New York State. Don't they take enough money from us?”

News10NBC heard from another viewer who got a bill with a $70 surcharge. She didn't want to be identified, and we spoke with her by phone.

She said, “They're putting things like this in, in my opinion, because it's sneakier. People don't see it like they do taxes. The bill is a burden and this is on top of the bill, a burden that just seems like New York State is taking advantage of a person that's already having a hard time.”

Scheffel said, “I never even thought that on top of going to the emergency room, having x-rays done, having your foot wrapped and put in an air cast that all of a sudden now, New York State is going to start charging you more on top of that.”

News10NBC asked Strong Hospital for a statement. Strong says hospitals must pay the surcharges to the state. None of the surcharge dollars go directly to the hospital providing the care.  The state uses the money to pay for programs that preserve rural health care and subsidize the child health plus program for uninsured children among others. Strong says the surcharge dollars are returned to needy New Yorkers.