By Gerri Elder
One of the most common causes of severe financial distress is a medical emergency. In fact, oversized hospital bills have led many Americans to bankruptcy.
Often, the total cost of a visit to the emergency room resembles the GDP of a small country. In addition, bills from the E.R. can be remarkably complex, and are often sent from different sources, including the doctor and the facility.
To remove the mystery surrounding these documents, a recent article in the New York Times explains the anatomy of an emergency room bill, and suggests that there are practical ways to reduce your spending on emergency medical costs.
Most emergency rooms are required by law to treat every patient that comes in, regardless of their insurance status. Since they accept people without insurance, emergency rooms are often not paid for their services. As a result, emergency facilities charge inflated prices for their services.
Patients with insurance will usually pay significantly less than the amount on the medical billbecause most hospitals have financial arrangements with commercial insurance carriers. On the other hand, patients without insurance are typically charged the full rate, but most are only able to pay a portion of their fees.
According to Dr. Jesse Pines, a health policy professor at George Washington University, “people don’t realize that the prices on the bill are just a starting point. Prices listed on the bill often don’t represent what the insurer or patient will ultimately pay.” Moreover, prices can vary substantially for different patients treated for the same type of service.
Here are some practical tips that may help you lower your emergency room costs: