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No-show fees are becoming increasingly common in the medical industry, with patients potentially being charged up to $100 or even more for missing a doctor’s appointment. The rationale behind such fees is to deter patients from late cancellations or not showing up altogether, as this prevents other patients from being able to utilize those appointment slots. Experts like George Loewenstein, an economics and psychology professor at Carnegie Mellon University, support these fees as they provide a disincentive for patients who fail to cancel appointments in advance.

Certified financial planner and physician Carolyn McClanahan also believes that these fees are fair, as they cover the costs incurred by the practice when a patient doesn’t show up. However, Caitlin Donovan, a spokesperson for the National Patient Advocate Foundation, feels that charging patients more fees may not be the best solution to the problem of no-shows. She suggests that medical offices can have success in reducing missed appointments by providing reminders and opportunities for patients to cancel.

Adam Rust, the director of financial services at the Consumer Federation of America, warns against using penalty fees as a profit center, as this may lead to unethical practices. Instead, he recommends implementing creative alternatives to “no-show” fees, such as offering ride shares to patients who can’t make it to their appointments. Donovan also advises patients to inquire about the office’s policy on missed appointments and try to reschedule or dispute the fee if they find it unfair or unaffordable.

While no-show fees may not impact a patient’s credit score, it is still advisable to contact the office and ask for the fee to be waived if necessary. Debt owed to a doctor’s or dentist’s office is considered medical debt, and amounts less than $500 are typically not reported to credit bureaus. In cases where patients have tried to cancel an appointment but were unable to reach anyone, customer service agents may be willing to waive the fee upon explanation.

Ultimately, the issue of no-show fees highlights the importance of effective communication between medical offices and patients. Reminders, opportunities to cancel, and creative alternatives can help reduce missed appointments without resorting to punitive fees. Patients should feel empowered to inquire about fees, dispute charges if needed, and work with medical offices that are flexible and understanding. By addressing the root causes of missed appointments, both patients and healthcare providers can ensure better outcomes for everyone involved.

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