Sun Sentinel, March 25, 2011

When Linda Romaniello's 8-year-old daughter Natalie got nipped by a dog, they went to a new urgent care clinic near their home in Davie. Antibiotic gel and a Band-Aid fixed her right up. Romaniello expected to pay $50 or $100, as at other walk-in clinics. But that urgent care center is owned by Baptist Health hospital system in Kendall. Baptist billed her a $275 "facility fee" and a $233 doctor fee for a total of $508 for a 15-minute visit. Her insurance refused to cover half of it. The family had run into a controversial trend: Some hospitals have opened urgent care centers off their campuses to attract walk-in patients with minor injuries and illnesses ? but charge as if it were the emergency room. "It's misleading. It's almost bait-and-switch," Romaniello said. "I asked them three times how much it would cost, and they couldn't tell me. They should have to tell you the fees up front. There are two other urgent care centers up the street that I could have gone to instead ? and paid a lot less." Patients across the country have complained about big fees at hospital-owned walk-in clinics, contending they take advantage of cash-paying patients with no health insurance or high-deductible policies.
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