Home > Health Insurance > How Much Does a Trip To The Emergency Room Cost?

About Kim Parr

Kim Parr is a private practice optometrist, freelance writer, and personal financial blogger. You can follow her journey to 20/20 financial vision at Eyes on the Dollar.

64 comments

  1. Well, I do, but because I live in NZ it’s not a HUGE concern. I’ve learned quite a bit about our system in the past couple of years though due to T sustaining various injuries and other ailments. ER is free if it’s an accident (and we’ve been there, done that a few times). If there’s no accident (e.g. he apparently has tendonitis at the moment but there was no particular incident that it can be traced to) then it costs. This week we paid $15 for two prescriptions, $95 for an x-ray and $85 for the ER consultation.
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    • That’s interesting that it covers accidents, not illnesses. Sad to say you’d hope for the former over the latter if you had to go.

  2. I have health insurance so I usually don’t think about costs that much. I tend to think more about the complete inconvenience of going to a hospital that I don’t know my way around, having to fill out paperwork when I’m sick, etc.

    I’ve found that hospital bills are completely indecipherable. So I just wait until I get one that doesn’t say “this is not a bill” and pay that one. Then spend the rest of my time hoping that I paid the right one.
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    • I would make sure it seems like tests and services that were given. Tons of medical bills or how they are billed is wrong. Ask the billing department to look over it if it seems suspicious.

  3. It is interesting how much healthcare costs in the US and that the government doesn’t subsidize the cost. Having said that, in Australia they do subsidize the cost and everyone ends up paying far higher taxes because of it… I guess it all works out in the end.
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    • If you spend more than 7.5% of your income on health care expenses you are able to deduct that from your taxes in years past, but they are raising that percent this year, I believe. We would have to be really sick to get the deduction.

  4. We have a $5000 insurance deductible so we think long and hard before going to the hospital! Luckily, we have been pretty healthy =)

  5. With the exchanges coming on board in January 2014, we thankfully won’t have to deal with people not having insurance (unless they choose not to, in which case they really should rethink their priorities since it’s subsidized based on income). I’m glad your daughter is okay, and I definitely can relate to the high costs involved in HSAs, but the tax savings are awesome -> “Since we will pay with HSA money, this will also save about another $327 in taxes.” Additionally, I am having surgery again (yay! not…) so I will be paying a HUGE bill in a couple months that covers my out of pocket max. Something like $3,500.
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  6. Those costs are crazy, especially the ER. I was expecting something to the tune of the urgent care, not four digits. But like you say when your kid is sick there is no amount you wouldn’t spend. I have a post about the French healthcare system, the whole thing would have cost about $100. Good thing she isn’t sick often, I hope you are both feeling better!
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  7. I might have gone back to the urgent care for a second visit. Given that they did the initial diagnosis, they certainly wouldn’t have sent her back a second time with just Tylenol and a recommendation to rest.
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  8. I know exactly where you’re coming from Kim, because we sadly have had the same thoughts about taking in a child due to possible costs. I hate to say that, but it’s honest. Thankfully we’re all pretty healthy and things like this have been far & few between for us. The costs are crazy and they only seem to be getting worse. Hope you both are doing better and on the mend.
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  9. Great article Kim, I kind of wish my insurance plan was an HSA, at least I would have gotten the tax deductions. As far as the doctors office goes our doctor will not book any appointments until that morning. So if I need to go to the doctor I have to call them and make an appointment at 7:30 in the morning. However, like Holly mentioned above we think long and hard before we go to the doctor as well.

    As a final thought I want to mention, what is with kids giving their colds and flu to their parents. When my kids get sick I can do everything humanly possible to avoid catching what they have but I get it almost every time. I guess if it makes my kids feel better that’s OK but I’ve never understood how this always manages to happen.
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    • I don’t use this doctor now, but I had one once who did emergency visits on Wednesday from 8-noon, first come, first served. If you got sick on Thursday, you’re screwed. I guess that is the niche that urgent care fills and primary care is now more for chronic conditions that can be scheduled or well checks. I have been pretty lucky over the last few years to miss most of the sickness that hits our house, but I guess I made up for it this time.

  10. I even work in healthcare and those costs shock me. My family has been fortunate that we’ve been very healthy lately, but I know that won’t last forever. I also have a high deductible plan with an HSA and I really like this method because of the tax savings and lower monthly premiums. I am in the same boat as you, I totally think about the costs before I go to the doctor. Most of the time I just wait it out (and suffer more than I need to) in order to avoid going to the doctor and having to pay. I’m glad to hear you are all back to being healthy, hopefully the bad luck is behind you!
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  11. I feel very lucky that we have great healthcare coverage, and as long as Cheryl works in the field, we will continue to have it. My beef with medicine is a different one: yesterday we waited an hour for the doctor beyond our appointment time. An hour! If I treated my clients the way many doctors treat their patients….I wouldn’t have any.
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    • I realize that sometimes patients run over, but they should have called and told you that before you showed up. Generally if a doctor consistently runs that late, they need to bring on another provider.

  12. I’m so sorry your daughter was that sick and also passed some of that on to you. :( But yes, I TOTALLY understand where you’re coming from. I’ve been dealing with the same thing with my shoulder. I think about EVERYTHING now when I go to the doctor and ask if certain tests are necessary. I mean my PCP was giving me a cholesterol check every year, but it’s always been great, so last year I said to please not do it because the lab processing costs me money. I never used to think like that. I have a high deductible as well and really hope I never meet it actually, because that would mean I spent a LOT of money. It’s unfortunate that we have to think this way now.
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    • Yes, I know. My doctor wanted to do lab work this year and I told her I’d wait until the health fair this month, where you can get lab work done really cheaply. It would be a couple of hundred dollars to do at the doctor’s office.

  13. I have (good) insurance and I think about costs too. I also have a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) which save me out of pocket money and taxes. I probably spend more in prescription drugs than office visits.
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  14. I’m so sorry to hear that you and your daughter were ill and had to go through all of us. It’s not right how we have to debate whether our kids are sick enough to justify taking them to doctor or urgent care or even the ER. It’s a risk we shouldn’t have to take with our kids or even our own health. We have good healthcare coverage through my husband’s job, but we still have that moment’s pause where we decide if this warrants a visit to the doctor. I’m glad you’re feeling better and hope your daughter is in the mend too.
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    • I would certainly never go to the doctor for minor things. For one, it takes half a day, and it’s not a pleasant way to spend your time. I probably do wait a little too long sometimes, but this one went downhill fast. If I wasn’t sick as well, I might have stuck it out through the weekend, but sometimes you just need a professional to tell you what to do.

  15. I was bit by a spider recently and we couldn’t track down the spider that did it, but I had a bit of a reaction, so we definitely considered our options if I needed care. Weekend, so dr office was closed. Urgent care probably wouldn’t have anti-venom if that was needed, so ER might be it…
    Luckily my uncle is an expert on these kinds of things so I called him, sent him a couple of pics of the bite and he said what to watch for/do. Turned out to be fine. The bite was mostly gone the next day.
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    • Wow, a spider expert in the family. I am terrified of spider bites. My Dad was bitten by a brown recluse once and he had to take some serious meds and it still left a big divot in his arm.

  16. I have pretty good health insurance, so I don’t think about the cost fully. I did have to go to the Urgent care two weeks ago and I was diagnosed with bronchitis. I still have it today, but it is getting better slowly. I did think about the cost before I went, but I needed the medicine. It is sad that others have to weigh their health based on how much they have in the bank.
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    • I know it happens all the time and it makes me really sad. I also see the other end at the clinic where I work. There is no charge if you are Native American, and people come in for any runny nose, ingrown toenail, or rash. I think there must be a happy medium somewhere.

  17. I hope your little one is feeling better finally! I never think about the cost when I am sick, because I usually fight it off until I know I cannot make it to work. By then, I am so sick I just want to die in bed and hate driving and waiting for the dr. Just give me a shot already and a note so I can go die in bed lol.

    When I was getting ready to have surgery I thought about it all the time. That was different because I knew it was coming up but I never had an exact cost on it. It all worked out, because as a side-effect I was having was insomnia so I worked two jobs, instead of sleeping, to pay for it. In the end I came out ahead because I only had to pay something like $2000 for everything. I say don’t worry, when sick happens just go with the flow because you can only prevent so much.
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    • I’m kind of the same way. I wait until I am dying and then just want it better yesterday. One bonus of my recent dental surgery was that they put me on an oral antibiotic and steroid which cleared out a lingering sinus infection from my flu episode last month!

  18. Thanks for linking to my Urgent Care post. Your ER is cheaper than ours. I’ve never had an ER visit for that price, and you had the Urgent Care in that total, too!
    Contracted prices are a thing of beauty and a source of amazement for me. I have some dental work that needs to be done and full price was over $6000 dollars. But then they input my dental insurance, the cost dropped by HALF and that was before they deducted the amount the insurance will pay (50% copay for non-preventive care).

    I will absolutely admit to skipping doctors visits because of cost. Because we have a high-deductible plan, we would basically pay out of pocket for non-preventive care for anything short of a hospitalization. So doctor visists tend to be reserved for being REALLY sick instead of just a little sick.
    HDHC plans are supposed to reduce medical costs by making people more responsible for the costs of their medical care. But I think they do the opposite by forcing lower income people to go without care until the problem escalates and then costs more to fix.
    I think there should be a deductible that the insurance has to pay before your own deductible kicks in. Maybe insurance covers the first $1000, and then the patient’s deductible kicks in. This would make people more likely to get care while issues are still minor, but still force them to make responsible choices.
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    • Years ago, I had some sort of rider on my health plan that covered the first $1000 of an ER visit. It was only a few bucks a month to add it, but I haven’t seen anything like that available for a long time. I’m sure it would make people more likely to go in before things were a train wreck.

  19. Ambulance fees are ludicrous as well, although one would think that they would be lower because of the urgency relayed by the use of an ambulance. I suppose this discourages inappropriate use, though.

  20. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I thank my lucky stars for Canada’s universal healthcare. I cannot imagine the stress of deciding when I can afford to go to a doctor. It blows my mind actually. I had a week long hospital stay in a private room with my own nursing staff and ONGYN for an emergency cesarean…my total out of pocket was $0. There was a $50 fee for the cable my husband insisted on having so we could watch summer Olympics/stanley cup playoffs but this was a hospital bill which my husbands work insurance covered. Yes I likely pay higher taxes and understand it’s not ”free” but I’ve never known any different and no amount of money could possibly come close to the ease I feel knowing for the rest of my aging life my healthcare is taken care of (outside of rx costs which we have insurance for).
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    • I sometimes really envy the Canadian system. Ours really isn’t that great despite all the huffing and puffing people do whenever the talk of a universal system comes up.

  21. We’ve had an HSA plan for several years now and love it. I think these type of plans really work for families that are relatively healthy. We’ve been able to save a lot in our HSA simply because we don’t go to the doctor often. And as you save more, you can continue to increase your deductible if you want, thus reducing your monthly premium.
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  22. Wow, sorry to hear about your daughter. I hope that everything is okay.
    We don’t have any children so probably visit the doctor once a year if a condition gets bad. Cost isn’t something that we think about, although we do have a high deductible health care plan $3,000 I believe. But the good thing is that my wife’s company picks up the first 50% of the deductible, so we’re really only on the hook when it surpasses the $1,500 mark.
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  23. Wow, what an experience all of that was. I am shocked at the prices one would have to pay without insurance coverage. We don’t think of any costs in Canada because we don’t pay Health Care at least up front maybe in our taxes but not like the way you have to. If we want to see our family doctor for anything we just call. If it is after hours we belong to a special team of doctors where one is on call or we can go to a walk-in clinic. My company pays I believe 90% of all our medications. Sorry to hear you were both so ill… Do you get to pay those expenses with a monthly plan or do you pay right at the hospital or do they bill you later? How does the payment process work?
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    • The hospital bills the insurance company who then approves the claim if it was billed properly. If the provider is in network, which is the case in my situation, they will determine what rate the hospital can charge since I haven’t met my deductible. The hospital then bills me. I know our hospital will work out a payment plan if you can’t pay it all up front, but some places do make you pay the balance in full. If you don’t have the funds, that’s when you get in trouble, and people turn to credit cards or even payday or other type loans. Luckily, we keep at least $2K in a our health savings account to cover things like this, so we’ll pay it off when we get the final bill. Should be any day now. I’ve already gotten the insurance company statements with how much we will owe, but the actual hospital has to bill us. Confusing to a Canuck, eh?

  24. We have a pretty high deductible at $5K, but we don’t really think twice about going to the DR. My wife’s insurance is pretty good and the discount rate is around 50% so our out of pocket isn’t terrible. Couple that with the fact her employer put $2K into an HRA so we don’t pay a dime until after $2k in costs it is pretty sweet.

    That being said he crushed our deductible last year (and max out of pocket of $8K) because our little guy spent 10 days in the NICU and we have crushed our deductible this year since our little guy had to get tubes and does a breathing treatment once a day and another one if he gets a cough. The good news for us, is everything else that will probably pop up this year is free.

    • So sorry to hear about your little one. That’s horrible to see someone so small have to go through medical issues. I hope he grows out of needing the breathing treatments. I guess this year, I would go in for any ingrown toenail, mole removal, or other test you’ve been putting off!

  25. Kim, I think you totally did the right thing this time around. But we do think about costs before we hit the ER, and I think it works well for us to do so b/c it causes us to stop and make sure that we’re really in an urgent situation instead of just acting out of fear or whatever. We have a high deductible too, so I know what you mean about the cost factor.
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  26. My father has a CT scan schedule for Monday, and they’re of course very expensive. So I was sitting down thinking about how technology costs are driving down: TVs, laptops, smartphones, etc. Yet the cost of healthcare keeps rising. Why isn’t the technological side of healthcare becoming less expensive??
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  27. I learned the hard way a long time ago that if you don’t have an emergency then don’t go to the emergency room. The problem is most of the urgent care offices close at about 10pm and that leaves few options for late night medical care. I had to take my son for stitches at about 2 in the morning several years ago and it cost us about $1200.
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    • Urgent care in our area just closed the door. I’m not sure if it wasn’t turning a profit or couldn’t find staff. It closed at 6 on weekdays, 3 on Saturday, and was closed on Sunday, so I’m not sure how urgent that is. ER is about our only option if you can’t get into the regular doctor during business hours.

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