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Costly Emergency Room, Health Care Services Can Create Sticker Shock for Patients - Even When They Aren't Treated

There’s no secret that health care costs have become a hot-button issue in America. Today, the cost of health care in the U.S. exceeds $3 trillion dollars a year, and equates to roughly $10,300 per every person in the country annually (compared to just $146 per person in 1960). Although there are complex reasons for this unprecedented increase, including our reliance on private health insurance, the fact is that medical treatment in the U.S. is simply more expensive than nearly anywhere else in the world – and especially so for treatment obtained in the ER.

The steep costs of emergency room services are made clear in a recent article published by Vox. According to their research, when patients seek emergency medical care in an ER, bills amounting to hundreds or even thousands of dollars are the norm. That massive price tag can even come with simply walking through the door.

Vox’s ER database project found numerous examples of emergency rooms across the country charging patients exorbitant sums for simply showing up to the ER and being triaged (sorted by degree of injuries and urgency), even if they weren’t actually treated by a doctor. One patient cited as an example visited the ER at Hoboken University Medical Center after she fainted, hit her head on a nearby table, and cut her ear. At the ER, she was given an ice pack, but received no other form of treatment nor any diagnosis. However, she did receive an almost $6,000 bill.

This patients, like many others, declined treatment after learning that available doctors were out of her insurance network, and made the decision that finding an in-network provider would help avoid costly fees. Unfortunately, that didn’t stop the surprising medical bill, of which only a fraction was paid by her insurance plan, leaving her with $5,000 to pay on her own. Other patients have reported receiving similar bills from hospitals which operate emergency rooms just for checking in, as well as bills approaching thousands of dollars for things as simple as taking a patient’s temperature.

High ER Bills, With or Without Treatment

This patient’s story is unfortunately not uncommon. In thousands of emergency room bills submitted by readers, Vox noted that patients not only face incredibly high costs for ER treatment and burdensome bills when insurance plans don’t pay, but also unfathomably costly surprise bills when they didn’t receive any treatment at all. For many patients, those bills only added to fees charged by other health care providers from whom they ultimately did receive treatment.

Part of the reason behind these high costs stem from emergency rooms charging fees (known as facility fees) for entering an ER, regardless of what happens after they arrive, and even if they leave without being treated. Hospitals have argued such fees are necessary to maintaining facilities and services, but experts and advocates state they are arbitrary and can vary significantly from one ER to the next. While many agree some services (triage, health assessments, and basic forms of treatment) have value and warrant payment, any massive price tags associated with them should be evaluated to make more sense for patients and their pocketbooks, not inflated because providers expect insurance companies won’t pay the entire charge.

Your Right to Compensation After a Preventable Accident

There is a lot to be said about health care and emergency room costs in the U.S., but the simple fact and reality for patients is that it is incredibly expensive. Still, this should not prevent accident victims from seeking emergency treatment when they’ve been injured. Seeking immediate medical attention after a motor vehicle accident, dog bite, construction accident, or any other traumatic incident is critical to one’s health, ruling out serious issues that could become life-threatening when unaddressed (i.e. brain injuries), and obtaining the diagnosis and treatment they need.

As personal injury lawyers who act as legal first responders to injured victims and families following accidents, our firm knows just how costly emergency room care can be. We also know the sticker shock victims experience when they receive hefty bills – bills that can and should be covered by the party responsible for causing those injuries. If there are concerns over costs and bills you might receive for being treated in an ER or obtaining any other type of medical care after an accident, remember that you can recover financial compensation to pay for them by taking legal action. Victims should not be forced to bear the financial burdens of paying for their medical bills and other damages when they result from the negligence of others. That’s why our laws provide victims with the right to pursue personal injury cases, hold at-fault parties accountable for their negligence, and secure a financial recovery of their resulting damages – from hefty medical bills and lost income to their pain and suffering and future needs, among others.

At Levinson Axelrod, P.A., our New Jersey personal injury lawyers know we play an important role in helping clients navigate their legal journeys and physical recoveries. By leveraging our experience and resources, we work to ensure clients are made whole, and that they recover the compensation they need and deserve. If you have questions about medical bills and damages you’ve incurred after being injured in a preventable accident, or wish to discuss a potential case, contact us for a free consultation.

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