I'm an aspiring writer, but overall, I am an American who seeks a better America.
As consumers, we have all encountered an unpleasant event in our lives involving a late fee or some other ridiculous charge that could have easily been waived if the merchant, the business, or the professional we dealt with was not too stubborn to do so. A bill gets to you late or not at all, and you get slapped with a late fee after you have mailed in your payment to your credit card company. Your landlord slaps you with a $50.00 late fee simply because your rent check arrived to him or her one day late. A train conductor charges you a needless penalty, because you misunderstood their policy about having to purchase your train ticket at a window counter before a certain time of night.
You beg a customer service representative to waive a $50.00 late fee on a credit card bill after a check got lost in the mail. You ask an Internal Revenue Service employee to abate a penalty and an interest charge after an accountant of yours has messed up your income tax returns. You plead with these people to do the right thing and cut you a break. However, they are not willing to come through for you.
Now, if you work in a customer call center or in any other similar capacity where you have to deal with billing issues, I can tell you up front that I have walked in your shoes. Therefore, I do understand what you are dealing with, whenever a customer pressures you to waive a late fee or do something of that nature on their account.
When I worked in a customer call center so many years ago, I always tried to work with the customer whenever he or she was in a difficult situation with their billing. For example, there was this one customer whom I had noticed to have been overbilled. She and her husband were behind on their monthly payments. After I corrected the bill, it turned out that they had a credit on their account. The female customer nearly broke into tears on the telephone after she realized that I had done whatever I could to alleviate her family's financial situation. She was very happy, and she told me that people seldom ever had done what I had done for her and her husband.
At the same time, I am also aware that there will be customers who take wrongful advantage of the system and even look for reasons to abuse a customer service representative verbally. I encountered many rude customers when I had worked at the above-described call center. One of them even asked me to speak with her 6-year-old son about how she felt that I wasn't pleasing her in the way she anticipated. Until then, I hadn't realized that I had signed on to be a makeshift child psychologist. I learned not to let any of these same manipulative types of customers pressure me into giving away the store, in figurative words.
Situations arise when people least expect it, and time has a way of creeping up on the best of us. I'm not mindless that if creditors and other businesses did not have policies in place in which they either charged late fees or suspended a service from customers who don't pay on time, they would eventually confront the prospect of bankruptcy.
At the same time, I can understand there being the existence of tough consumer-protection laws that force private companies and businesses to treat the public with respect. For example, when I was in the seventh grade, I remember this one school teacher of mine named Mrs. Tucker who told us a true story about how she had to pull into a gasoline station immediately after her car began to stall on her. She told me and my classmates that she had threatened the employees there that she would have them arrested if they refused to assist her with her car after they had found out that she didn't carry their particular credit card and they had acted reluctant to help her out at first. She told us that there was some kind of statute on the law books that obligated such businesses to assist motorists whenever they fell into such a difficult situation.
All of the above-described situations come to me as no surprise. However, what is clearly beyond my comprehension is how physicians and dentists have the legal ability to charge patients a fee for failing to keep an appointment. Okay. I am well aware that these healthcare providers value their time and handle stressful situations from day to day, but consumers do fall into unintentional, unforeseen situations that keep them from contacting the physician or the dentist either to cancel or reschedule their appointment; and most of us do not have $125, $50, $40, $30, $25 or even $10 to throw away for a no-show fee. It really gives you the feeling that these healthcare providers are trying to get something for nothing. If they don't actually give you medical or dental treatment, it really comes down to only that. There needs to be a law against it.
1. The Medical Profession Is Way Too Lucrative To Justify Charging Patients For Missed Appointments
The healthcare industry in general always does well financially, even in times of economic crisis here in the United States of America. For that reason, I feel that if a patient habitually fails to appear for appointments and does not even as so much give their healthcare provider's office the courtesy of a telephone call, it only makes sense that their physician or their dentist decides to terminate that patient from his or her medical or dental practice. In other words, that same healthcare provider should simply tell that patient to take his or her business elsewhere in that event.
Nevertheless, whenever you read some of the true stories that people have published on HubPages's vertical network site called WeHaveKids, there can be no question that parents often find themselves in stressful situations where they are tending to their children's current needs and they simply either do not have the time to phone a healthcare provider's office to cancel or reschedule an appointment or they don't have their cell phone with them. Otherwise, they are so overwhelmed with parental responsibilities that they inadvertently forget to contact their healthcare provider's office to cancel or reschedule an appointment.
Parents have to live within certain budgets while they care for their children. Allowing for physicians and dentists to hit them with ridiculous no-show fees for an appointment that they missed because of extenuating circumstances somehow doesn't seem very fair or civil. Moreover, I have never met or known anyone who actually paid one of those fees. It seems as though most people simply sever all ties with that healthcare provider after receiving one of those no-show fees in the mail and they rip the bill up.
Are these no-show fees enforceable? They are, but not as easily as you think. Overall, I think that they are mostly used as deterrents, but, nevertheless, they shouldn't be used at all. They're rip-offs to consumers.
2. Healthcare Providers Include Provisions About No-Show Fees In The Forms That Patients Sign
No-show fees in medical practices and dental practices are usually not embodied in statutory law as some consumers may believe. Physicians and dentists almost always include clauses in their paperwork that they have patients sign to give it the effect of a contractual agreement that can hold them hostage to no-show fees if they miss any appointments without calling far enough ahead of time to cancel or reschedule it. Allison Puryear explains how these same no-show fees are implemented, in her video below.
Allison Puryear Explains How Most Patients Resent No-Show Fees
As evidenced in her video above, Ms. Puryear has a bumpier pathway than most healthcare providers in deciding whether or not to charge any of her patients a no-show fee whenever they miss an appointment without the courtesy of a telephone call beforehand. She is a therapist and she has to stay on good terms with her patients or they may not return to her practice at all. I am glad that she gets it, but not everyone in the healthcare profession does.
There was this one man that I had known since middle school, and he became an insurance broker. His name was Joe. It was hard work for him. The most difficult part of his profession was setting up appointments when he had no guarantee that these prospective customers would appear for them. As much as he hated waiting for a customer only to find out that he or she was not going to keep their appointment with him, he realized that it was something that he had to take in stride. Whenever these prospective customers stood him up, he knew that it was all a part of the downside of selling insurance policies.
I'm sure that Joe would have liked it if there was some kind of statute on the law books that allowed him to charge these prospective customers a no-show fee for what he felt was a waste of his valuable time. However, at the end of the day, it would not have benefited him inasmuch as people whom he charged this no-show fee would not have wanted to do business with him ever again. It was a give-and-take situation in his line of work.
3. No-Show Fees Are Not As Easy For Healthcare Providers To Collect As They May Seem
As I pointed out above, the reason that physicians and dentists can get away with charging a no-show fee whereas insurance brokers can't is because healthcare providers are able to hold their patients hostage to it by getting them to agree to it in the paperwork they have them fill out and sign. Having a patient's signature on a typewritten agreement suffices for them to obligate that patient to pay a no-show fee.
An insurance broker usually gets a prospective customer to agree to a meeting over the telephone, and no paperwork is signed. Therefore, an insurance broker cannot charge anyone a no-show fee for skipping their appointment at the last minute without even as so much the courtesy of a telephone call.
Now comes the million-dollar question. What if a patient refuses to pay a no-show fee to a healthcare provider. Well, keep in mind that anybody can take anyone to small claims court for a breach of contract. Healthcare providers can pursue that remedial avenue if they wish.
My response to situations in which a patient does get charged a no-show fee is that I doubt that the majority of patients ever actually pay those things, because they usually feel that they don't have that kind of money to throw away and they're not actually getting anything in return for it other than much needless aggravation. Moreover, most of them are not afraid of a healthcare provider filing a small claims civil action against them, because they realize that all they need to do is to avoid process of service so that the suing physician or dentist has no legal away of hauling them into court. There are inventive ways for people to avoid process of service that they can learn about from the Internet.
Furthermore, most healthcare providers don't have the kind of time to be taking someone to court for refusing to pay their no-show fee, and they have no guarantee that the judge is going to rule in their favor. If a judge feels that the patient didn't fully understand what he or she was signing in the paperwork that the healthcare provider gave that patient when he or she agreed to paying a no-show fee in case they missed an appointment without calling far enough ahead of time either to cancel it or reschedule it, that judge can turn around and rule that the patient is not liable for the no-show fee. The court system is not as black and white as most of us believe it to be.
Also, if healthcare providers were to enforce the payment of every no-show fee they charged a patient for missing an appointment, they would probably be spending more time in small claims court than they would at their own practice, treating patients. Therefore, probably very few no-show fees are ever actually collected from patients who get slapped with them. In that sense, no-show fees serve more as a deterrent than as an actual way to get money out of a patient who does a disappearing act on a physician or a dentist after he or she schedules an appointment at their practice.
My question here is whether or not a healthcare provider should be legally allowed to charge a patient a no-show fee under any circumstances. My response to that question is a flat-out NO. I believe that a healthcare provider merely needs to emphasize in the paperwork that he or she has their patients fill out and sign that if a patient misses an appointment so many times (e.g. three times), then that patient will be terminated from that healthcare provider's practice and be denied any opportunity to become a patient there again. Patients who read this paperwork and sign it will get the message so long as their healthcare provider gives them sufficient warning about how serious they are about it.
4. It's Time To Get Laws Passed To Prohibit Healthcare Providers From Charging No-Show Fees
Private insurance companies seldom ever make any guarantees to cover no-show fees whenever a physician or a dentist charges them to their patients. Americans are struggling now with the way the economy is. Therefore, how does it make any sense that healthcare providers have the freedom to hold their patients hostage to no-show fees?
Let's get real. Most patients who miss an appointment with their physician or their dentist don't do so on purpose or because they are irresponsible in any manner. Unexpected situations do crop up that cause time to creep up on even the best of us; and when we don't have ready access to a telephone far enough ahead of time, it's so easy to forget to make that one call to your healthcare provider to explain to them that you need to reschedule your appointment.
Once you get hit with a no-show fee, you feel so furious that you don't want to go back to that healthcare provider. He or she is supposed to be there to make you better rather than to bankrupt you. Also, if you're struggling financially, you know very well that that healthcare provider is much better off than you are and doesn't need to be collecting any no-show fee to run their practice.
If push comes to shove, these healthcare providers can easily occupy the extra hour that the no-show patient left them and use it to catch up on paperwork on which they might feel they are behind. Every physician and dentist has at least some amount of paperwork that they want to knock out. Otherwise, they may choose to take their next patient early. It all balances out in the end, and it comes down to the fact that no-show fees are truly unnecessary and unjust.
As American consumers, we need to contact our elected officials and tell them that we need some tough statutes on our law books that prohibit healthcare providers from charging no-show fees. While it may appear as an inconvenience for some of these healthcare providers whenever a patient doesn't keep an appointment, their practices are not going to go belly up from it. No-show fees are an exploitation of patients. They should be outlawed.
Our elected officials are the ones who can pass legislation to prohibit healthcare providers from including clauses in the paperwork they give their patients to sign that stipulate no-show fees in the event that they miss an appointment. The medical profession and the dental profession have already been ripping off the consumers enough in recent years in the form of risings healthcare costs. What gives these healthcare providers the right to compound the expense with which they are already burdening all of us? If the United States of America had Universal Healthcare that went as far as covering no-show fees entirely, it would not be so bad except, of course, on Americans who pay the most taxes.
In his article titled "Medical Billing Tips: Charging Patients No-Show Fees," Manny Oliverez attempts to justify healthcare providers charging patients no-show fees. I realize that it's his job to side with physicians and dentists over the little guy on this same issue. However, if you read the comments section to his article, you will find that the majority of the people who posted there disagreed with him and did so for very good reasons. Most of them also agreed with one another that no-show fees were a sham and that these healthcare providers needed to be taken off the gravy train once and for all in this respect.
Whenever I have been in a situation in which I have had to cancel or reschedule an appointment with a physician or a dentist, I haven't always been able to get through to a live human being at their telephone number. Many of these medical practices and dental practices even shut down for lunch for two hours each day, which makes it even more so difficult to get a hold of them. Very few of them have an automated cancellation telephone line that you can call into and leave your information on it to cancel an appointment as far ahead in advance as they expect you to do so; and when they do have something like that, there's no guarantee that they're going to check it as often as they should.
Another problematic scenario is when you must call your healthcare provider 24 hours in advance to cancel or reschedule your Monday appointment and you find out that their office is closed on the Friday that you call them. I fell into such a situation myself, and there was going to be nobody in my doctor's office on the weekend either. Therefore, I faxed my doctor's office a letter asking them to reschedule my appointment, and I stressed that the date and the time on my facsimile transmission report was enough to prove that I contacted them more than 24 hours in advance to do so. They got the message, and they assisted me in rescheduling my appointment on that Monday that I was initially supposed to see my doctor. I did not get charged a no-show fee either.
These healthcare providers do nothing to make their no-show policies convenient for their patients; and if they should close down their office unexpectedly for one reason or another such as problems with their plumbing, there is no guarantee that they are going to waive the no-show fee if you are not able to get in touch with someone in their office until after the window of opportunity to do so has closed. It's completely outrageous, and our lawmakers need to do something about it.
After reading the above-described comments to Mr. Oliverez's article, it appears that healthcare providers are even acting insensitively to situations involving unfair no-show fees in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. These stories get me so furious that I feel my blood coagulating. Patients in our nation deserve to be treated better than how they have been treated.
I've gone to appointments at healthcare provider's offices only to find out that they've closed their office because of some last-minute emergency. Was I able to charge them a no-show fee? No. I wasn't even able to charge them for gasoline. Therefore, it should not be right for healthcare providers to charge patients no-show fees under any circumstances.
Now, some of you may be saying that if anyone gets a bill in the mail from a physician or a dentist who has unfairly charged them a no-show fee, then they can simply throw the bill in the trash. Well, I wish that it were that simple, but it isn't.
If a healthcare provider unfairly charges someone a no-show fee after that patient attempted in good faith to contact them in a timely manner either to cancel or reschedule their appointment, it is true that the judge is going to side with the patient in the event that the healthcare provider hauls him or her into small claims court. However, we also have to consider that the healthcare provider may not go down that road but rather will report the patient to a consumer credit bureau and ruin their credit rating.
I've never been a big fan of consumer credit bureaus, and, quite frankly, I would like for lawmakers to pass legislation to shut them all down. Of course, that is another article for another time. My main goal here is to urge each and every one of you who is an American to write, telephone or e-mail your elected officials to encourage them to pass laws that would prohibit any healthcare provider from charging no-show fees to their patients. It is time that we all stand up to these parasites in our medical communities and dental communities and stop them in their tracks once and for all.
5. My Final Thoughts Regarding This Topic
Healthcare providers may have you believe that no-show fees are completely justifiable because of the impact that patients supposedly have on their schedule whenever those patients don't keep their appointments. However, there is a great amount of misinformation floating around out there regarding what happens when a patient doesn't make it to an appointment at all and is unable to contact their healthcare provider's office for one reason or another.
The medical profession and the dental profession have collected bloated fees for their regular services, and private medical insurance and dental insurance that are affordable have been more difficult to come by for the average American throughout the years. Therefore, it makes no sense that healthcare providers are allowed to charge no-show fees to their patients when, in many events, these patients have attempted to contact the offices of these same professionals to cancel or reschedule their appointments in a timely manner and something goes wrong.
No-show fees among healthcare providers are not good-faith business practices. They are tactics to cheat money out of hard-working Americans whose time and even pride get trampled on whenever a physician or a dentist leaves them waiting in a reception room for three hours or brushes them off completely without even the courtesy of a telephone call whenever an emergency comes up in their own family.
No-show fees from healthcare providers are a double standard, and no other professional in any other field of work is legally allowed to charge these types of fees to their customers, not even lawyers; and we all know how lawyers value their time and effort. Healthcare providers have been riding on the gravy train in collecting these no-show fees for way too long, and it is time that Americans stand up and say no to them.
Elected officials need to know how we all feel about these no-show fees and how unfair they are. If each and every one of us writes, telephones or even e-mails our elected officials, I believe that something will be done to outlaw these no-show fees that healthcare providers charge their patients. However, doing nothing will trap us all in the same status quo that healthcare providers have shoved down our throats for years, even decades.
A Poll For Americans Who Are Sick And Tired Of Getting Ripped Off
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Jason B Truth
Jason B Truth (author) from United States of America on August 21, 2021:
Ladies and gentlemen? Healthcare is expensive enough here in the United States of America. It makes no sense that doctors and dentists can charge no-show fees. Nobody else can. Even if you disagree with me, you will likely find valuable points in my article above that could give you a change of heart on this topic.