BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS — Attorney General Maura Healey today issued an advisory to notify consumers and dental practices about their rights and responsibilities concerning additional fees for COVID-19 infection control, including personal protective equipment (PPE) and related materials.
The AG’s Office has received numerous inquiries from the public concerning these surcharges. In some instances, consumers have not been told about these fees until after the service was provided. While practices vary, the surcharges may show up as a separate “PPE fee” on billing statements. The AG’s Office has seen surcharges ranging from $10 to $35.
The AG’s advisory was sent to the Massachusetts Dental Society and highlights dental providers’ obligations under the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Law in relation to infection control surcharges.
“We understand that many dental practices are facing increased financial burdens due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said AG Healey. “However, consumers across our state are dealing with their own financial hardships and should not have to pay inappropriate or surprise charges. This advisory provides guidance on when fees may be appropriate and when they are not.”
The AG’s advisory explains that when consumers receive dental care from dentists within their insurance network, the contract between their dental plan insurer and the dental practice typically prohibits any additional fees. It further advises that in other situations where surcharges for PPE may be allowed under insurance contracts—for instance, where the dentist is out of network with the consumer’s insurance, or where the consumer does not have dental insurance—dental practices should provide advance notice of the fee.
Dental practices are advised to check with the dental insurers with which they participate to determine whether the types of surcharges described in the advisory are allowed before attempting to collect payment from a patient.
Consumers may contact the Attorney General’s Health Care Division with questions or complaints about these surcharges through the office’s Health Care Helpline at 1-888-830-6277. The Division may also be able to mediate a billing dispute with a dental provider. Complaints may be filed at https://www.mass.gov/how-to/file-a-health-care-complaint.