An extra fee levied on patients for managed care paperwork by a Cleveland-area OB/GYN practice has been met with such bad publicity that other practices are unlikely to follow suit in the near future, says the president of the local medical society.
Beachwood OB/GYN in Lyndhurst, Ohio, has been billing patients a one-time annual charge of $30 for four months now, says Kevin T. Geraci, M.D., president of the Academy of Medicine Cleveland/Northern Ohio Medical Association.
But the practice was not made public until the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported it on Tuesday in a "negative" story, Geraci says.
Because of reimbursement declines and rising expenses, "other practices have been looking at this (fee), but they have not made the move," he says.
Geraci says the extra fee is not illegal but it could harm doctors' cause. In a variety of issues such as malpractice reform, "patients are our greatest allies," he says. "To come to them and say we're going to charge you more has to be done carefully."
Doctors and staff in the practice, Beachwood OB/GYN in Lyndhurst, Ohio, were unavailable for comment.
Officials at Medical Mutual of Ohio, which reportedly covers more than 4,000 patients at the practice, say the fee does not violate its contract with the group.
But Medical Mutual is negotiating an agreement with the doctors clarifying how its members would be affected, says Medical Mutual spokesman Don Olson. The Cleveland-based insurer wants patients to be told the purpose of the fee and that it is optional, he says.
Geraci says, based on conversations with the doctors--two of whom are in the Academy--and patients he shares with them, he thinks Beachwood could have done a better job notifying patients of the policy.
He says the Academy will develop guidelines on notifying patients about the fee and allowing waivers to patients who can't afford the fee.
Geraci says doctors in his own 20-member multispecialty practice discussed and rejected charging the extra fee.
"We thought it would be testing our patients' understanding at this point, although we think it's a valid thing to do," he says.