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July 3rd, 2009
01:23 PM ET

The high cost of standing up your doctor

We all lead hectic lives - what happens when you forget a doctor’s appointment? One man says it cost him a few hundred dollars! But is it legal for doctors to charge patients for missed appointments? And is it fair? Senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen answers viewer questions.

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  1. Doug Morby

    I would have truly thought Michael's memorial would be a one item news story until Sara Palin decided intrude on a solemn moment to blare news which is no interest to Jackson fans that mean nothing except to her, her family and few Alaskans.... shame on her for this interference.

    July 3, 2009 at 4:15 pm |
  2. michael armstrong sr.

    if the doctor dont have any body standing in line to see him and just cant say next or make a last minute phone call to a waiting client then i would be reluctent to even trust this doctors credintials all good doctors have waiting clients.

    July 3, 2009 at 5:03 pm |
  3. Natalie

    I feel that Debbie Rowe should not get custody of those children because she sold them she just out for the money.

    July 3, 2009 at 7:02 pm |
  4. Priscilla

    As I listened to your report on doctors charging patients for missed appointments or arriving late for your appointment, you asked,"is this legal?" and the answer to you was "yes". That's one side of the coin.
    I was the Nurse/Manager for a four doctor office at one time and they "routinely" quadruple booked patients all the time.If you had a 2pm appointment,with,say Dr. Smith,so did three other patients! You were lucky to to see the Dr. by 4pm.Most patients had to take time off from work to,in this case, have their eyes examined for either an upgrade on their rx glasses, eye diseases,or cataract surgery with an Intra Ocular lens implant. Most patients lost money sitting there all that time waiting their turn, and never complained (to the doctors) Only one man told me he was going to charge the Office for the hours of pay he lost while waiting. Here are some facts I took upon myself to see what exactly was taking place financially in their (doctors) minds re: a
    "normal" 8 hour work day. If they spent more than nine minutes per patient, they were losing money. We had 2 offices in that town; one office saw 250 patients a day,the other saw over 150 patients a day.
    It took 50 patients to generate one surgery,(where the real money came in) and one day a week was set aside for all the surgeries for all four doctors. Each doctor made $59,000/month. And these figures were from almost 30 years ago ! Now let's level the "playing field" and charge them the exact same price they set for us, if we fail to show or are late for an appointment ! Our time is just as valuable as theirs. A dedicated staff of around 20 people worked very hard to service 400 people a day as "we" raked in $1600 a day,($6400) in a 4 day work week. The 5th day was set aside for surgeries which brought in much more than the other 4 days. Now they want $200 more or less if we "forget" to show, or an emergency arises and we don't have the time to call and cancel? Oh I forgot, if you call 24 hours before your appointment, they may "waive" the fee, should they chose to add that to their "rules of engagement." I say, "It's time to stand up against these rediculous fees and say, Enough; And we're not taking it anymore !!" Stand up for your rights; You become "empowered" and see just how much your voices count in this greedy world !!!

    July 4, 2009 at 3:08 am |
  5. Milton Smith

    I think doctors should not exist. We don't need doctors we need professionals. Doctors suck pros don't.

    July 4, 2009 at 10:35 am |
  6. Corey

    This is a question of choosing your poison. You could either have doctors quadruple booking appointments (so your appointment time is merely the earliest you'll see them), so the doctor is still being productive when 1-3 of them no-show... or you could have a doctor single book, but charge them a cancellation charge if the patient does not give 24 hours of notice. Myself, I would rather go to the doctor that charges the fee, so that I don't have to take a whole afternoon off work for a 1:30 appointment. But I could understand why people wouldn't want that option.

    I suppose I could be more upset about it, but if you are trying to get a sick kid into the doctor and there aren't any appointment slots open, finding out that 3 people no-showed without calling (so you could have gotten in after all) is frustrating, too. I have been on both sides–not having given enough notice and having to wait for an appointment–so this Glass House resident won't be throwing a lot of Stones.

    July 4, 2009 at 11:10 am |
  7. Beth

    My advice with doctors office is to be consistent. If you show up for your appointments faithfully for years then an emergency arises or you accidently forget to show up for an appointment they are much more likely to not charge you the fee. However, if you constantly cancel or no-show then you should be charged the fee. That appointment could have gone to someone who really needs it instead of someone who repeatedly cancels. I have no sympthy for someone who cancels or no-shows several times just because they "forgot" and then gets charged the fees. I have to manage several doctors plus my children's doctors and I can honestly say in 9 years I have only missed one appointment and that was because I was in labor! Doctors have too much to do and to many sick patients to deal with someone who doesn't want to be responsible for their health. Missing an appointment is not being responsible for their health. Some patients should be lucky to be charged the fee because some of my doctors if you miss or no-show more than 3 appointments you would be sent a letter that says you must find a new doctor and they will help you coordinate the transfer. A good doctor is hard to find and if you have one you should do what you need to do to keep them, which includes not cancelling or no-showing appointments unless it is an absolute emergency.

    July 4, 2009 at 11:48 am |
  8. Satish

    these are not doctors, but money mongers...In aslam, they should issue fatwa against these folks..in our culture, in simple words, they be legally executed...these folks are not serving the society now, but plundering it...May god give these folks horrific death!

    July 4, 2009 at 1:07 pm |
  9. Tim

    I'd make a list of the doctors that called and complained of the story and make it public.

    July 6, 2009 at 11:13 pm |
  10. Randi Hall

    I work as a nurse in a family care practice and yes it's fair to charge people for not showing up for their appointments. What people need to realize is this is a place of business where sick people are seen. Look at it this way, how would you like it if you called your primary care physician needing to be seen because you are really sick and they say they can't see you because they have a full schedule, then let's say Sally Jo the 2:00 oclock appointment doesn't show up for her appointment, that is an appointment you could have had, but because disrespectful Sally Jo couldn't take 15 seconds to call and cancel her appointment you are still at home sick feeling like your dying. Hmmm, now lets see what is not fair in this situation, the doctor charging Sally Jo for no showing or you not being able to be seen because Sally Jo didn't have enough respect to call and cancel her appointment.
    Of course anybody that could ask such a question must be the "Sally Jo" that wouldn't have enough respect to call and say she couldn't make it to her appointment. What you need to realize is they are called appointments for a reason and you are going to be disrespectful and not cancel your appointment so that the physician can see someone in your place, why should he be the one to lose money. You are the one that no showed, caused him to lose money, and took a spot that could have been used. by someone sick.

    So yes it is fair for a physician to charge you for not showing up for and not calling to cancel your appointment. If you don't want to be charged then show up for your appointment or take 15 seconds out of your life to cancel it.

    July 17, 2009 at 5:14 pm |
  11. Kim

    I was charged $100 for missing an appointment with my cardiologist. The appointment was scheduled a year in advance and no reminder call or postcard was received. So I simply told them I was not going to pay and gave my reasons why.

    December 7, 2012 at 2:03 pm |

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