Healthcare providers who cover telemedicine fees for online messaging

WASHINGTON — The next time you text your doctor to ask about an annoying cough or an itchy rash, you might want to check your bank account first — you could get a bill for the question.

Hospital systems across the country charge for some of the messages patients send to doctors, who they say are spending increasing amounts of time online inquiries, some complex enough to require the level of medical expertise that usually is delivered during a doctor’s visit.

But patient advocates worry that these new fees could discourage people from seeing their doctor and add another layer of complexity to the US healthcare system’s already opaque billing process.

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