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 2021, adding annual medical inflation rates, consumers should expect an average cost close to $1,800 and a median cost of $876. 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 (2018 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 one in five (19.6%) kids and 21.3% of adults aged 18 and up had at least one ER visit in 2018. The age-related rates of ER usage were highest for people aged 65-plus. ER use for the 18 to 24-year-old group was the next highest. More than one-third of Native American children visited an ER in 2018; as did over 1/4 of Black Americans, both adults and kids. Over one-third of adults living below poverty level visited the ER in 2019.

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/2018-ed-web-tables-508.pdf

 

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