Going to the emergency room can be incredibly expensive, and — for some — it’s about to get even worse. Treatment for a sprained ankle can cost as much as $24,110, according to The Washington Post, and now ERs may slap on an upfront fee, too. Establishments owned by the Hospital Corporation of American (HCA) are implementing upfront fees (starting at $150), requiring any patients without a life-threatening emergency to pay for treatment and/or care upfront.
Are Upfront Charges in the ER legal?
The short answer to that question is yes. Any applicable fees for immediate care do not apply to pregnant women, aging Americans (older than 64), or children 5 and under. ERs will not ask for upfront fees until after a legally required medical exam. Following this mandated assessment, if doctors determine that patients have relatively routine symptoms (cold symptoms, flu symptoms, or food poisoning), they will ask them to pay for care prior to treatment.
How do healthcare professionals feel about these changes? Doctors’ opinions remain divided. Some fear that patients who need care will opt out of going to the emergency room, owing to upfront fees. Relatively minor symptoms can, in rare cases, develop into something much more serious. Others, however, point out that these fees have the potential to benefit emergency rooms and patients. “These practices help reduce costs for both the patient and the hospital. We think this is appropriate, given that some people use the ER in a way it was not intended: as a source for routine care,” healthcare professional John Merriweather says.
Where Else Can Americans Go?
Moreover, Americans do have somewhere else to go. Urgent care centers provide care during non-traditional hours, including weekends, late nights, and holidays. Some 24 hour urgent care clinics even offer round-the-clock care. These clinics anything from sprained ankles to flu and/or cold symptoms. Some even offer specialized care, such as STD tests.
Save yourself a considerable amount of money by choosing urgent care centers if it is not a life-threatening emergency. Remember, urgent care clinics treat sprains, strains, and food poisoning, and even perform STD tests. Find out more here.