Is the emergency room going to charge you even more, and just for showing up? Believe it or not, it can happen, and — if you’re not careful — it probably will, too. Although the average ER bill costs well over a grand, hospitals all across the U.S. may start tacking on upfront charges (prior to even giving you any treatment or medication!) starting at $150.
Why You May Be In For A Larger Bill, And Why You Deserve It, Too
Hospitals owned by the Hospital Corporation of America (HCA) announced that they will begin charging upfront fees for any emergency room patients who visits with a non-life-threatening emergency. In other words, routine patients –– or patients with cold, flu, or strep throat symptoms, for example –– will be liable for these fees. Pregnant women, American seniors, and young children (under 6) are all exempt from these additional charges.
Is this ethical and/or legal? It is legal. By law, emergency rooms just have to screen you — and it is after the mandated medical screening that they will implement these charges, if applicable. Whether it is ethical is an entirely different story. As it stands, even healthcare professionals disagree. Some believe that they will help ERs and patients mutually, reducing crowding and limiting bills. Others believe that the new fees may deter people who are truly sick — and who need medical attention — from going to the ER.
The Low-Cost Alternative To The ER
What is the solution? Thankfully, there is sensible alternative. Urgent care facilities, after hours urgent care centers, family health clinics, or walk in health clinics are less expensive (a visit averages less than $150). They are open late nights, weekends, holidays, and sometimes even 24 hours — and wait times are much shorter than comparable emergency room wait times.
Approximately 5 to 20% of Americans get sick with the flu every year, but that does not mean it’s time to go to the ER — even if your doctor is closed. Urgent care facilities provide all kinds of non-emergency care, including treatment for sprains, lacerations, cold and flu symptoms, and even anonymous STD testing.