November 28, 2018

UConn Health to give up facility fees for skin cancer treatment

PHOTO | UConn Photo
PHOTO | UConn Photo
UConn Health Center campus in Farmington.

UConn Health's John Dempsey Hospital intends to voluntarily give up more than $1 million in revenue from sometimes controversial "facility fees" billed to patients.

The hospital filed a request with state regulators last week asking for permission to convert its service line of so-called Mohs procedures -- during which a doctor surgically removes basal cell carcinomas (the most common form of skin cancer) on the head and neck -- from a hospital-based service to an office-based service overseen by UConn Medical Group.

The services provided at their 21 South Road location in Farmington will not change.

Last fiscal year, UConn performed more than 7,000 Mohs procedures. According to the Office of Health Strategy, Mohs procedures generated $1.3 million in facility fee revenue for Dempsey, the second highest of any other type of procedure at the hospital. In all, Dempsey brought in $19.2 million in facility fees in calendar year 2017, OHS data shows.

In its recent application to OHS, UConn said its Mohs patients have been receiving two bills after their procedure -- one from the medical group and one from the hospital. That means patients have also often been required to pay two copayments, causing "confusion and frustration" for patients that could dissuade them from receiving the procedure, which has a high cure rate. Mohs surgeons are already in short-supply, hindering access, UConn wrote in the filing.

"This evolved over the past few years as providers received negative feedback from patients and community physicians pertaining to the receipt of two bills for what they perceived as a single episode of service," it said. "Although this move will have a negative financial impact on JDH, it will have a positive financial impact on patients…"

If approved, the change would mean patients will have more cost-effective access to UConn's dermatological surgeons, hospital spokesman Chris Hyers said.

"This change is consistent with what we see across the country -- an increasing tendency to move towards office based billing whenever feasible to help reduce the costs of care," Hyers said.

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