Health Insurance

How Much Does It Cost To Go To The ER

By David Krug David Krug is the CEO & President of Bankovia. He's a lifelong expat who has lived in the Philippines, Mexico, Thailand, and Colombia. When he's not reading about cryptocurrencies, he's researching the latest personal finance software. 10 minute read

Traveling to the ER is never a pleasant experience for anyone. There is physical suffering involved, either for you or someone you care about. Everything about this circumstance is horrible.

However, the high price of the ER just makes things worse. A copay of $50 to $300 may be required, even if you have health insurance. Without it, a trip to the emergency room might cost you $1,000 or more.

The financial burden of an emergency room visit can linger long after the initial injury or sickness has healed. While it’s impossible to totally prevent these expenditures, they may be managed.

Saving Money at the Emergency Room (ER)

Preventing expensive trips to the emergency room can begin long before anybody is wounded. You may save a lot of money in the event of an emergency with just a little bit of preparation. Paying close attention throughout the consultation and asserting your rights and financial health can also help you avoid a hefty fee. Simple measures like these can help you save money on unexpected medical care.

  1. Investigate Local Hospital Costs

Healthcare costs are not uniformly priced. The cost of emergency care for the same injury or sickness at two different hospitals in the same city may vary widely. It might make a significant difference in your cost if you choose the more affordable option.

In 2019, lawmakers mandated that all Medicare-accepting hospitals post their charges online. You can obtain this document by visiting the website of a nearby medical facility and conducting a search for “standard charges.”

Finding the precise price of a certain operation may, however, require some digging. In the event of a medical emergency, you don’t have time to squander researching pricing among other hospitals in the area.

You should instead try to gain a sense of the average costs of various types of care before you really need them. Find all the hospitals and urgent care clinics within a reasonable driving distance from your house.

You may compare each hospital’s regular prices for various emergency procedures for someone with your insurance by visiting their websites. Find out how much it will cost to treat a fractured bone or a possible heart attack.

Create a pricing comparison chart showing which hospital offers the lowest rates for each urgent care service. Be prepared for any medical emergency by keeping this list in your vehicle.

  1. Maintain an Emergency Fund

The unexpected cost of an emergency department visit is a major drawback. You can never predict when they will occur or how much they will cost. Because of this, including them in a financial plan might be challenging.

Establishing a rainy-day fund is one solution to this issue. It’s easy to get started with just $50 to $100 a month put away until you have a $1,000 to $2,000 emergency fund. That sum can be used as a down payment for medical care, eliminating the need for extended payment plans or financing.

  1. Create a Health Savings Account.

The cost of an emergency room visit may have to be paid entirely out of pocket if you have a high-deductible health plan. If you have a health savings account (HSA), however, you may use those tax-free funds to cover the cost. Additionally, there are no taxes levied on the funds you take out.

Since HSA funds must be used for healthcare, they are superior to an emergency fund, which you should still maintain. These options, however, are not open to all consumers. Opening a plan requires you to have a large deductible. For tax purposes, you must maintain documentation of any healthcare expenses paid for your HSA funds.

  1. Adjust Your Insurance Coverage

Many people may feel overwhelmed by the health insurance market because of the seemingly deliberate complexity of the available plans. Furthermore, insurance that covers routine checkups and office visits may not cover emergency treatment or vice versa.

Make sure you’re familiar with your health insurance plan’s details so you can maximize its benefits. Learn what your plan covers, how to get it, and what factors may prevent a certain medical event from being covered by reading the tiny print.

Now you may evaluate it against your family’s expected requirements. You may opt to raise or lower your deductible or vary the extent of your coverage depending on your research. Also, you might want to think about switching to a different family health insurance plan.

  1. When possible, avoid using ambulances.

Treatment in an ambulance is more expensive than in a hospital emergency department, and ambulance travels can easily cost hundreds of dollars.

You may save money by driving yourself to the hospital if you know where they are, which ones are best for specific treatments, and how to get there quickly.

Plan a route from your house to each hospital or urgent care facility on your pricing comparison list using a map or mapping tool. You should plan an alternate route for each one in case your primary one becomes impassable due to something like traffic or building work.

Put a copy of these directions in each vehicle if you’re using a paper map. It’s a good idea to put all of your routes in an app for easy access.

  1. Sort Through Your Data

Having all the pertinent data on hand before visiting the ER will help you save both time and money. The entrance procedure is streamlined, and any superfluous drugs or exams are avoided.

Under duress, it is not always easy to keep important medical information in mind. Make life simpler for yourself and your loved ones by creating a list of vital medical data for each person in the family. Include all of their health issues and current medications, and make sure to update it if there is a change.

A copy of this list, together with copies of your insurance cards and benefit summaries, should be kept in every vehicle you own. In order to comply with the law, your insurance provider is obligated to present you with this overview of each policy it sells. A copy may be obtained by calling the insurance company or looking it up online.

  1. Inquire about costs right away.

The greatest and most ethical medical professionals will always inform their patients of the associated expenses before they agree to give any kind of treatment, excepting the rare case of a true emergency. If you ask, your service provider is required to provide that information with you. A patient advocate is available in some ERs and can give this information.

The emergency room’s prices are far higher than those of any other medical institution. Knowing how much something will cost in advance might help you decide whether or not you really need a non-essential medical operation, prescription, or piece of equipment.

Having the original estimate on file also allows you to compare it to the final amount. You have bargaining power if the hospital bills you more than it initially estimated. Be ready to ask the following questions in the event of an emergency, or choose a member of your family to do so on your behalf:

  • What Will the Price Tag be for This Procedure? Request that they investigate if they claim ignorance.
  • Do You Know of Any Less Expensive Options? If you’re prescribed medication, for instance, you may inquire about obtaining the generic version.
  • When I leave the emergency room, will I have access to these supplies? Gauze, for instance, may be purchased for a few dollars at any drugstore like Walgreens or CVS if you’ve been advised to take it home in order to treat a wound. The bill at the emergency room might easily reach triple figures.

Put the questions on a scrap of paper if you’re worried about forgetting to ask them in the heat of the moment. Keep it alongside your insurance card for easy access.

However, you should take certain precautions. If you need medical attention, you should never refuse it. It’s one thing to refuse ibuprofen if you can take it after you leave. The local anesthetic used to numb the area around your sutures, however, is a separate matter.

  1. Refuse unneeded equipment

Unfortunately, emergency department care is typically just the beginning of a lengthy road to recovery. In order to become well, you might need certain tools on hand in the house. Such items might be as basic as gauze and bandages or as complex as a knee or elbow brace, crutches, or a wheelchair.

Don’t ever go to the ER in search of that stuff. As part of its (hospital) Bill of the Month series, Kaiser Health News released a case study in 2019. The soccer player’s knee brace cost $250 at retail, but the hospital charged him more than $800. That sort of thing happens all the time, so he’s not alone.

In the event that you are provided such apparatus in the ER, it is prudent to inquire as to its cost. Then, examine how much it would cost at a neighboring Walgreens or CVS by looking it up online. Most major pharmacies have online databases that list the products carried in local pharmacies.

If the price tag at the emergency room pharmacy is too exorbitant, go elsewhere. After visiting the emergency room, you may need assistance from a friend or family member to get around. Without a doubt, you will require the assistance of a friend or family member to get you from the hospital to your house.

If you can’t find what you’re looking for in a shop, you might want to see how much same-day delivery would set you back. It may still be far less expensive than the ER.

  1. Accept no non-vital drugs.

If you think the markup on machinery is high, try buying prescription medication. According to the results of a 2019 PhRMA survey, the average markup for pharmaceuticals in hospitals is 478%. A 2018 Vox investigation into emergency room costs revealed similar examples of hospitals charging exorbitant prices for medications that could be purchased for far less from a regular pharmacy.

If a doctor or nurse gives you medication without explaining why you need it or if there is a nonprescription option, speak out.

Listen to the emergency room doctor. You may save a lot of money by getting a prescription for any medications they wish to send home with you and filling it at a discount online pharmacy.

  1. Obtain everyone’s name and job title.

Care providers you don’t know should introduce themselves and explain why they’ve come to see you. In real life, hospitals are not the villains in a lousy TV drama that try to slip unnecessary and costly treatments past you. However, you also can’t rely on them to deliver merely the bare minimum of services.

Find out as much as you can, including the price, about any surgery that someone is there to carry out. If it’s not essential, you may just say no.

It would be detrimental to your care and rehabilitation if you declined necessary therapy. However, this is a chance to skip procedures that may be safely skipped or delayed until you see your regular doctor.

  1. Check Your Bill

Before you send any money to the hospital, double-check your bill for mistakes. Do not neglect this essential procedure. Some people’s whole careers are dedicated to detecting and resolving hospital billing problems because of how widespread and costly they are.

Make sure to get in touch with the billing department as soon as possible if you suspect an issue or have evidence of an error in your charges. You have 30 days from the day you received your bill to file a challenge, per the Fair Data Collection Practices Act.

All disputed charges must be notified in writing. A cheaper bill is generally reached after some back-and-forth haggling with the vendor.

  1. Pay the Complete Bill

If your income is too high to qualify for a discount, you still have options for lowering your medical expenses. Do you want to get a discount? Offer to pay the entire payment in front.

There is a surprisingly large amount of money saved by the hospital when patients pay in full. They are exempt from sending invoices, following up with late payers, etc. The majority of hospitals are prepared to reduce your charge to help you avoid these fees.

To find out if there is a discount for paying in full with cash, contact the billing office. The process is simplified by the fact that most major medical facilities, networks, and health maintenance organizations (HMOs) provide monetary discounts. In most cases, this method can result in a 15–20% decrease in your monthly payment, as reported by Consumer Reports.

  1. Request a Payment Plan

You might ask for a payment plan if you are unable to get the price down to cash. The billing department of a hospital is usually ready to split up a large amount into manageable monthly installments.

If you’re considering a payment plan, though, it’s important to find out what the associated interest and costs would be. The majority of hospitals provide payment plans with no interest, however some of them have extremely high out-of-pocket costs. A medical loan or medical credit card like CareCredit might save you money on your medical expenses, depending on the interest rate.

Bottom Line

Health care demand in the United States is inelastic, which contributes to rising health care costs. So long as they have the resources to do so, consumers are willing to pay whatever price is asked.

This is especially true in the field of emergency care. When saving a life is at stake, people turn to this service. You’re willing to do whatever it takes to fix your kid’s skull if he or she suffers one in a bicycle accident.

However, it doesn’t mean doctors and nurses aren’t attempting to get you out of a financial jam, either. The catch is that you’ll have to be extra careful about budgeting. A medical emergency need not become a financial emergency if proper care is taken before, during, and after treatment.

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