The rising cost of medical services is driving up the price of health care throughout the industry. There’s perhaps no better illustration of that phenomenon than hospitals’ emergency departments, since ER trips are the most expensive type of health care delivery. In fact, a new NIH-funded study finds the average cost for an ER visit was over $2,000 — about 40 percent more than most people spend on their rent each month.
The most common reasons that Americans visit an emergency department, like treating sprains or urinary tract infections, can rack up exorbitant charges. But the industry’s wide range in pricing means Americans often have no idea what kind of bill they should expect when they head to the hospital. When factoring in the IQR — the “interquartile range,” which represents the difference between the 25th and 75th percentile of charges — it becomes clear that hospitals end up charging most patients a lot more or a lot less than the average prices for these services (although these numbers don’t account for what insurance plans may end up covering):
And the researchers note that, since they focused on the most common diagnoses, these aren’t even necessarily the most costly ER services out there. If they had set out to figure out how an ER trip could be as expensive as possible for a sick American, that chart would have even higher numbers.
The study’s lead researchers ultimately conclude that Americans need to get more upfront information about ER costs before they land in an emergency department. They recommend better pricing transparency throughout the health care industry — a significant step forward that could help drive down health costs by allowing patients to be more discriminate about which unnecessary and expensive services they’d rather not pay for.
Ultimately, the rising cost of basic medical treatment is putting a big strain on the American families struggling to regain their footing in the wake of the Great Recession. Health costs have skyrocketed at the same time as workers’ wages have stagnated, and more than one in three people are forced to put off the health care they need because they can’t afford it.