Can a doctor offer free consultations and then charge you after the fact for services rendered? This was an ENT/plastics.

ENT/plastics doctor advertises for free consultations on their website and is now retroactively trying to bill me for the ENT portion of my visit (says plastics only is free) after the fact. $500 new patient bill and it is going to collections soon. None of this was mentioned up front.

Doctor Answers 5

Unethical billing practices

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It is terribly unfortunate that there was miscommunication in regard to the billing practices of your plastic surgeon. If your physician is board certified and a member of local and national professional societies, these organizations have standards of ethics that may have been violated. I would encourage you to file an ethics complaint to that society as his continued membership in that society is contingent upon adhering to a standard code of ethics. I am so sorry this happened. It reflects negatively on all plastic surgeons for patients to be unprofessionally. At least he revealed his true nature before you had a procedure performed. Good luck to you. 

Houston Plastic Surgeon
4.7 out of 5 stars 16 reviews

Complimentary Consultation Question

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Dear Annquist, I personally offer complementary consultations for my patients and I would not consider billing the patient for separate portions of the consultation. A cosmetic consultation still involves an intra-nasal examination to provide a proper diagnosis and surgical plan. I would attempt to contact the surgeons office and speak with their office manager this seems unreasonable. Best regards, Michael V. Elam, M.D.

Michael Elam, MD
Orange County Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 218 reviews

Can a doctor offer free consultations and then charge you after the fact for services rendered?

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Hello Annquist,

The policies regarding payment should have been made known to you ahead of time.  Although there are some who will provide a free consultation for cosmetic inquiries, it is not common for a doctor to not charge for a medically necessary office visit (such as general ENT questions).  The physician's front office staff should have made this apparent at both the time of scheduling the appointment as well as at your check in.  The only tricky part comes in if you indicated you wanted to talk about something cosmetic on the phone but then started going into medical concerns you may have had once you met your physician.  

The best thing to do would be to bring this to the attention of the office manager and the physician.  There can be oversights that take place when it comes to billing and what is billed.  You should also evaluate the website again and see what the wording says about free consultations.  If there is no disclaimer that it is only for cosmetic cases, you should bring this up with the physician as well.  Since services have already been rendered, the outcome will depend on the decision of your treating physician, but if he or she does not know there is a patient with a concern, then there is nothing he or she can do or offer to help remedy the situation.

I hope this helps and good luck.  

William Marshall Guy, MD
The Woodlands Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 31 reviews

Problem with visit to Plastic Surgeon

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I believe in your situation of a misunderstanding with the Plastic Surgeon where you saw a complimentary consultation on his/her website , I would call their office directly and inquire about the misunderstanding. If no services were provided and just a consultation I would ask why there was such a significant fee and if they still refuse to waive the fee I would print a copy of what you saw on the website and send that to them with the invoice.  Hope this helps answer your question.  It is important that you ask questions about fees when you make an appointment so there is no confusion once you get there.  I am sorry you have a bad experience with this doctor.

Bradford S. Patt, MD
Houston Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.0 out of 5 stars 4 reviews

Professional Fee and Billing Policy

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Clearly stated professional fee policy regarding a patient's responsibility for payment are usually discussed up front so as to avoid any misunderstandings about such issues. Offer of "free" consultations should be honored if advertised. Have you tried to discuss your situation with the physician or his staff? Unfortunately, it sounds as if this practice failed to properly communicate to you their payment policy in cases which may have other ENT related considerations. Perhaps they would be willing to help you resolve this matter prior to any collection activity if you reach out. Hoping you receive a successful resolution. Best Regards. 

Fred J. Bressler, MD, FACS
Houston Facial Plastic Surgeon

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.