As it is with many Coloradans, going to the doctor has become an anxiety-inducing event for myself and my family, not because of whatever medical needs brought us there in the first place, but because of the hidden hospital costs that don’t come to light until we receive a bill in the mail.

I’ve come to expect having to pay exorbitant prices for medical care. But not too long ago I received a medical bill that I never could have expected. 

When I brought my 3-year-old son to the doctor for a routine visit, we discussed some troubling developmental issues he was having. The doctor recommended we take him to a specialist. This was in 2021 when COVID rates were high, and I was 8 months pregnant with my daughter. It was recommended we schedule a telehealth appointment with a few specialists who could observe and analyze my son playing with toys, eating his lunch, and other basic tasks over a video call. 

When I received a bill for around $600 a couple of weeks later, I thought it was pretty steep but wasn’t surprised.

When I received a second bill — $847 from Children’s Hospital — I was sure it was a mistake since I had already paid the previous bill.

I laughed when I was later told this was a “facility fee” that gets charged for a “visit” regardless of the fact that I already paid hundreds of dollars for services. I was told that they have to charge the facility fee for the use of hospital equipment — even for a telehealth call.

I asked for an itemized bill to break down the “facility fee” cost more clearly, and discovered that they charged me according to several different billing codes, which included egregious and irrational charges such as $477 for a “swallowing evaluation” for the specialist observing my son eating via Zoom. The breakdown of this fee clearly shows an abuse of unregulated power in our healthcare systems that breaks the bank for people like you and me who simply want to protect our children’s future.  

As large hospital systems merge and buy up small clinics and independent providers, these fees are being charged more often to patients for simply walking through the door of a hospital or hospital-owned facility. But in my case, I never entered any facility to get care. The appointment for my son took place via a telehealth appointment – in our home, playing with his own toys, eating a lunch that I had prepared. Large hospital systems indiscriminately charge these fees simply because they can, regardless of whether they’re fair, and the problem is only getting worse as these hospitals buy up every provider in town.

I’m not the only person who has been hit with an expensive, completely illogical “facility fee,” but I hope I am one of the last. Thankfully, lawmakers are considering a bill this year, House Bill 23-1215, to rein in these hidden fees. This bill will make health care prices fairer and more transparent and ultimately save many Coloradans from being forced to pay expensive and unreasonable facility fees that they simply cannot afford.


The fact that large, wealthy hospital systems are opposing this bill by claiming they can’t afford not to charge facility fees is completely infuriating. Not only because it’s simply untrue, but because so many people in our country are struggling financially and in debt due to exorbitant and unfair hospital bills alone. In fact, 61% of Coloradans wouldn’t be able to pay or would struggle if hit with an unexpected medical expense of $500, according to a recent poll.

Meanwhile, Colorado hospitals, particularly large hospital systems that are often the ones charging facility fees, are getting wealthier and more powerful. From 2014 to 2021, net patient revenues for Colorado hospitals grew more than $1.1 billion per year, according to a report from the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing. In 2020, Colorado hospitals had the nation’s seventh-highest profit per patient. Imposing expensive and unexpected surprise fees on Coloradans is just another tactic hospitals use to increase their growing profits at the expense of unsuspecting families like mine. 

By taking a hard look at these unfair facility fees, Colorado lawmakers can help decrease costs, make healthcare more transparent, and bring justice for working families like mine. Lawmakers, please vote yes on House Bill 1215.

Brittany Tesso lives in Castle Rock.

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Brittany Tesso

Brittany Tesso lives in Castle Rock