How Much Does an ER Visit Cost?

 In CHR Blog

How much does an ER Visit cost? The short answer is a lot. A single ER visit cost $1,082 on average in 2019. Visits by those who were uninsured cost $1,220 on average. Visits by people under 65 who had private commercial insurance had an average cost of $1,642.

The picture might actually be a little more expensive than you think. People who make one ER visit, may easily have another ER visit or two in the same year. Including such multiple visits, the average cost for people visiting the Emergency Room in 2019 was $1,687. This was up 10% from 2018. The median “typical” cost was $832 per person. If you bring those costs forward to 2022, and add annual medical inflation, consumers should expect an average cost over $1,825 and a median cost of $900. The average out of pocket cost was $439 plus or minus about 25%.

Some groups have a higher average cost. For example, those who were uninsured and used the Emergency Department in 2019 had an average cost of $1,749. People ages 45 to 64 had an average expense of $2,285. Average costs for people ages 18 to 44 were also high, at $1,830.

Vermont is one of the few states that publicly reports the base price for an ER visit. With just fourteen hospitals in the state, consumers can see on one page, how hospital Emergency Departments compare on price. The basic 2019 hospital charge averaged $341 for a nonurgent lowest Level 1 visit, to $1,830 for the highest severity Level 5. This price covers only the base charge for the facility and doctor. If you need a lab test, an x-ray, an MRI, some fluids, something sewn up, or a major life-saving effort, that’s extra. Add the cost of each extra procedure to the base price. Nationally, three-fourths of ER visits resulted in at least a blood test, an x ray, CT or other imaging test, a urinalysis, an EKG, an IV, or some kind of test (2019 data[1]). It is very easy and quick to generate a bill well into the thousands of dollars.

How likely is it that you’ll have a trip to the Emergency Department? Perhaps more likely than you think. CDC reported that 15% of kids under age 5 had at least one ER visit in 2019. Amazingly, there were 123 ER visits for every 100 babies under age 1. The age-related rates of ER use were second highest for people aged 65-plus. One in five (21%) had an ER visit in 2019. By ethnicity, Native Americans and Blacks were somewhat more likely to visit an ER in 2019 than other groups. By income level, poor people were more than twice as likely as high income people to visit the ER in 2019.

You might be interested to know that the higher your income, the more likely it was that a bigger bill occurred. The average expense for a high-income person’s ER visit was $1,451, compared to under $700 for people in the lowest two (poor) categories. Remember, this is “base cost” only, without counting the extra tests that are required based on your condition.

So, facing a potential bill into the thousands, you only want to use the ER if you need that level of help and urgency. An Urgent Care Center might be a lower cost option. And yet, the best alternative may be to call your doctor’s office to see a provider who has an open appointment slot. The average physician office visit cost in 2019 was just $287. Your wallet will thank you.

[1] https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhamcs/web_tables/2019-nhamcs-ed-web-tables-508.pdf

This article was updated June 15, 2022.

 

 

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