While there’s no denying that health is priceless, caring for can be extremely pricey. And nowhere is this more apparent than a visit to the emergency room. As Elisabeth Rosenthal wrote in the New York Times in 2013, even a relatively minor procedure such as stitches can cost as much as $2,200. It’s almost scary to think how more serious injuries such a bone fracture might cost.
Of course, health insurance might cover part of the bill, but you’ll still have to worry about the co-pay. What’s more, the price of emergency care here in the U.S. is markedly higher compared to that of other advanced economies. If you’re like most patients, you’ve probably wondered why a trip to the emergency room costs a small fortune.
Understanding the Cost of Emergency Care
In general, there are two reasons for the higher costs of emergency care. First and foremost is the lack of price regulation in the hospital industry, which is why the cost of emergency treatment can vary wildly from hospital to hospital, and state by state.
The second reason is the fact that hospitals factor in their operating costs when billing clients. After all, emergency rooms have expensive equipment and highly trained staff, and operate 24/7. They need to recoup their costs somehow, and it’s often the patients who foot them.
Lastly, the inflated care costs also account for opportunity cost. By treating a patient with a less serious condition such as a sprained ankle, they forego any income they can make by treating a patient with a more severe illness.
A Waiting Game
A trip to the emergency isn’t just a burden on your finances, it can also be burden on the patient. Since ER departments treat an assortment of cases—from those that require a few stitches to those that need major surgery—patients often queue up, waiting for a doctor to examine them.
A Cost-Effective Alternative
Fortunately, if you’re suffering from a non-life-threatening condition such as a twisted ankle, a tweaked back, or a bad case of heartburn, you can visit a Houston urgent care center instead.
These facilities treat many of the painful but non-critical illnesses that bring people to hospital ERs, but at a more pocket-friendly price. And since no major procedures are performed at urgent care facilities, service also tends to be more efficient and timely.
Indeed, healthcare is one of the most important needs a person has. Luckily, there are now more affordable options that can provide the same level of care that emergency rooms can.
Why a Trip to the Emergency Room Costs a Fortune, Bloomberg.com
As Hospital Prices Soar, a Stitch Tops $500, NYTimes.com