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Mainers' concerns over health care costs spark debate over facility fees

Central Maine Medical Center is seen, Thursday, Dec. 16, 2021, in Lewiston, Maine.
Robert F. Bukaty
Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston.

More than two-thirds of Mainers say a single major medical event could catapult them into financial disaster, according to a new survey from Consumers for Affordable Health Care.

The progressive advocacy group released the survey results ahead of a public hearing on Democratic legislation that would limit charges for facility fees on patient bills.

"It's going to provide some clarity," says Dr. Richard Evans, board member of Consumers for Affordable Health Care. "Most of the patients who are caught in this bind are confused, because the rules are so different from one place to the next place. The costs are so different from one place to the next place."

The bill would only allow facility fees in certain situations. It would also require providers to submit annual reports on facility fees to increase transparency.

But the Maine Hospital Association says restricting facility fees would be financially devastating for hospitals. Spokesperson Jeff Austin says they cover operational expenses, and if fees are eliminated, certain services will have to be cut.