Understanding the Legality and Implications of Surcharging – Insights from ChiroFutures Malpractice Insurance Program

In the ever-evolving landscape of healthcare and business management, chiropractic professionals like Dr. Phil often find themselves navigating complex financial decisions. A prime example is the consideration of passing on credit card processing fees to patients. This decision, while seemingly straightforward, carries significant implications in terms of legality, patient relationships, and risk management.

Dr. Phil, a practicing chiropractor in Missouri, recently inquired about the legality and advisability of imposing a 2% surcharge on patients who pay using credit cards. This query is particularly relevant for practitioners who are part of multiple insurance networks and need to balance the operational costs with patient satisfaction.

Legality of Surcharging 

In Missouri, as in most states except Connecticut and Massachusetts, it is legal for physicians to apply a surcharge for credit card payments. This practice, known as ‘surcharging’, is a method to offset the processing fees charged by credit card companies, typically around 3%. However, it is crucial to understand the specific rules and regulations that govern this practice to ensure compliance and avoid any legal pitfalls.

No Surcharging on HSA/FSA Cards

One critical aspect that Dr. Phil was advised on is the prohibition of surcharging on Health Savings Account (HSA) or Flexible Spending Account (FSA) cards. These types of payment methods are governed by different regulations, and imposing additional fees on them could lead to compliance issues.

Patient Communication and Transparency

Another essential factor is the importance of clear communication with patients. If a chiropractor decides to implement a surcharge, this must be prominently disclosed in the office, on the website, and at the payment terminal. Transparency is key in maintaining trust and avoiding misunderstandings with patients. Each patient should have the opportunity to be fully informed and choose an alternative payment method if they prefer.

Electronic Payments and Surcharging

There are also nuances in electronic payments. When a credit card number is manually entered, such as through a card vault or an e-payment system, it may not be categorized as a standard card transaction. In such cases, applying a surcharge might be inappropriate or misleading.

Risk Management and Having a Reliable Malpractice Provider

This scenario underscores the importance of having a robust risk management strategy and a reliable malpractice insurance provider. ChiroFutures Malpractice Insurance Program, for instance, plays a pivotal role in offering guidance and support in these matters. Their expertise in navigating legal and ethical considerations, combined with their understanding of the chiropractic profession, makes them an invaluable resource.

In conclusion, while the decision to surcharge credit card payments lies with the individual practitioner, it must be approached with a comprehensive understanding of the legal landscape, ethical considerations, and patient relationship dynamics. The support and guidance of a knowledgeable malpractice insurance provider, such as ChiroFutures, are indispensable in making informed decisions that align with both business objectives and patient care standards. Dr. Phil’s inquiry is a reminder of the complex interplay between healthcare delivery and financial management, and the need for ongoing education and support in these areas.