Everything in life costs money, but when it’s your health or a loved one’s that is at stake, you might be less focused on getting pricing and more concerned with getting treatment.
That’s human nature, and unfortunately it’s an aspect of humanity that comes to the fore when you go to a hospital emergency room. Let’s take a look at the actual and average costs associated with ERs, and why you need to look for alternative options like a freestanding ER.
Emergency Room Costs – More Than a Month’s Rent?
A visit to the ER can cost the patient more than an average month’s rent, according to a recent NIH-funded study.
After examining over 8,000 emergency room bills, they found charges of up to $39,000 for kidney stone treatment and a whopping $73,000 for a urinary tract infection! On average, fees for a single visit came out at just over $1,200, which topped 40% above the average monthly rental amount of $871. It appears that patients with insurance pay less than those without insurance, or than those who get treated at an out-of-network facility.
Breakdown of Emergency Room Costs
The costs associated with an emergency room visit depend on the services you need and receive. According to CostHelper, some typical charges based on reports by patients after visiting a hospital ER are:
Insurance Copay – $50 to $150
Low – level visit for conditions such as laceration, skin rash or a viral infection – $150
Moderate – level visit for an infection with fever or a basic head injury – $400
High – level visit for chest pains or severe burns – $1,000 excluding tests and doctor fees
The tests, doctor fees and ambulance transport are factors that push up emergency room costs considerably.
Critical care procedures or surgeries can cost up to $1,700 initially and around $500 per hour thereafter. And if you need an ambulance to get there, it could hit your wallet for anything from $400 to $1,200 depending on how far you need to travel and the services you require in the ambulance.
Deciding When to Go to an ER
So, when should you go to a hospital ER and when should you look for a more affordable alternative?
Chances are good that if you’re involved in a motor vehicle accident and an ambulance arrives on the scene, you’re going to be taken to the nearest hospital with a trauma center and you’ll have little choice in the matter.
When you go of your own accord, however, you’re usually slightly less critical and more able to make the decision.
There are various alternatives to a hospital ER that you can explore. It’s best to identify where you want to go before you need to do so, however, because when someone in your family needs care it’s difficult on the spur of the moment to make smart decisions.
Investigate and assess the various medical care centers in your neighborhood well ahead of time, and look for things such as:
Staffing by Board-Certified Physicians: Hospital ERs don’t guarantee that the medical staff you’ll see are certified, and neither do urgent care centers where staffing comprises mainly physician assistants and nurse practitioners. At a freestanding emergency room such as ours, however, all patients are attended by doctors who hold certification.
Extended Hours: Your local hospital ER might be open 24/7, but how long are you going to wait to be seen if they’re busy? All the money in the world can’t help you if you don’t get the care you need in time, so in spite of the exorbitant costs you can expect to wait for up to several hours for medical attention. At a freestanding ER, however, wait times are significantly shorter, which means you’ll get seen – and treated – faster.
Transfer Agreements with Hospitals: One of the main advantages of using a hospital emergency room is the close proximity to a hospital with all facilities if you need them. Urgent care centers simply can’t compete with this aspect, but if you identify a freestanding ER that has transfer agreement in place you can be sure of direct, speedy admission if urgent surgery is required. Of course, all these aspects are available at hospital emergency rooms, but that doesn’t mean you want to be charged an arm and a leg just because you’re paying for the cost of medical services you don’t actually need.
Keeping the costs of medical care in your family at a manageable level requires just as much financial savvy and “doing the numbers” as any other aspect of your lifestyle. Don’t wait until you have a medical emergency to find an affordable care facility; identify your nearest freestanding ER now and make a note of their contact information. You’ll get the help you need, while keeping more of your money where it belongs—in your wallet!