Too many Americans are abusing emergency rooms — and, soon, they will have to pay for it. Establishments owned by the Hospital Corporation of American (HCA) are implementing upfront charges for patients who visit with routine illnesses and injuries. In other words, patients with non-life-threatening ailments may have to pay $150 prior to receiving treatment. Why are hospital ERs making these changes, and where else do Americans have to go?
Is It Legal to Charge ER Patients Upfront Fees?
The short answer is yes. Pregnant women, American seniors, and children under age 6 will be exempt from any upfront fees associated with ER visits. Other patients, however, will be subject to fees starting at $150 — if they exhibit symptoms of routine illnesses and injuries only. ERs will still provide legally required medical screenings. Routine patients will simply have to pay up — immediately — if they want care or treatment following the exam.
Although the legality of the upfront fees is not in question, several doctors, nurses, and healthcare professionals are questioning the ethics of charging any patients in the ER. Some fear that patients will hesitate to seek treatment, or they may be turned away for relatively routine symptoms that ultimately develop into something much more serious. Others, however, argue that the motion stands to save hospitals and patients a great deal of money. “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 expert, John Merriweather, explains.
Urgent Care Centers: A Cost-Efficient and Convenient Alternative
Some Americans justify abusing emergency rooms by insisting they have nowhere else to go. This simply is not true. Urgent care facilities cost a fraction of an ER bill, and there are urgent care centers cropping up all over the U.S. — in densely populated cities and rural areas. Walk in clinic hours are flexible, with most open late nights, weekends, and holidays.
Patients can go to convenient, urgent care centers — and they stand to save a lot of money, too. Avoid upfront charges by choosing urgent care for non-life-threatening conditions. Great references here.