How Much Does Emergency Room Visit Without Insurance Cost?

Ideally, the practice of providing expedient treatment to patients in need of critical care is as old as medicine itself. After all, the incredible odds of prehistoric humans surviving attacks from wild animals would have been steeper (if not more unnerving) without the skill of a healer providing the effective urgent care of its time. But the emergency medicine, as the modern system of providing health care, is still relatively young. Alongside the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia; America is one of the leading pioneers of this practice that began in the early 1960’s.

As far as the accurate timeline goes, the people responsible for pioneering this concept are rather ambiguous. The US National Library of Medicine named a few institutions that broke new ground in terms of making the earlier expedient medical rescue efforts work. But regardless of its origins, there is no doubt that the importance of emergency medicine is ‘practically’ crucial for keeping society intact today. How so?

A 2013 data summarized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has counted a total of 37.2 million injury-related visits, with 1.5 million in that population being admitted to the critical care unit. One can only imagine the enormous spending needed to keep emergency rooms working 24/7, with the cost of emergency room visit without insurance contributing to the bulk of the billions worth of national health care cost.

National Average Cost

The cost of emergency room visit without insurance is just one of the most heavily-discussed public concerns in the United States. This is primarily caused by the lack of transparency or a difficulty of streamlining detailed information on the actual out-of-pocket expenses. The broad estimate price range paid by all patients to visit the emergency room is between $150 and more than $3,000.

emergency room hospital

It is important to understand that there are numerous factors that contribute to the vast gulf of disparity among exact costs. Among these aspects include (but are not limited to) the severity of the disease or injury, the complexity of the medical procedure required, and the total number of medical instruments used during the course of the operation.

Free Health Care?

Many Americans tend to believe that the cost of emergency room visit without insurance is free if the patient is unable to pay for the expenses. Unfortunately, it is just one of the top 5 popular myths underscored in an article published by BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina. This myth prospered because of modern society’s collective attitude to promote the advantages of consumers – shielding them from hard and ‘inconvenient’ facts like the true cost of health care.

In fact, even ambulance rides are billed to the patients. The highest uninsured cost paid to cover the emergency transport can climb up to $1,700. While it may imply that the seemingly ‘parasitical’ predilection of uninsured patients contributes to the increase of emergency health care cost, the same data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has proven otherwise. Contrary to popular impression, patients subscribing under government-issued insurance account for the highest frequency of unnecessary emergency room visits.

Moderate to Severe Self-Diagnoses

Speaking of unnecessary emergency room visits, it is important to understand that not all patients are highly literate in terms of assessing medical conditions. In other words, there is a general lack of knowledge in terms of gauging the severity of the disease – especially if it is solely based on the observable symptoms.

The trick to properly assessing the cost of emergency room visit without insurance is to know whether or not certain conditions require emergency room visits in the first place. As it happens, certain symptoms may not be as bad as it seems. For reference, these are the following diagnoses categorized accordingly:

Moderate Health Issues

  • Migraine
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Severe cough
  • Asthma attacks
  • Fever
  • Drug side effects
  • Animal bites
  • Wounds requiring stitches

Medical Emergencies

  • Chest pain
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Severe breathing problem
  • Sudden muscle and motor failure
  • Pain in the arm or jaw
  • Coughing or vomiting blood
  • Hemorrhage
  • Severe burns or deep wounds
  • Head trauma
  • Major broken bones
  • Seizures or convulsions

Urgent Care: the Middle Ground

Considering the cost of emergency room visit without insurance, there is a way for patients to receive expedient life-saving treatment outside huge health centers or hospitals. The urgent care clinics are easily accessible outlets that perform emergency procedures at a significantly lesser cost.

According to Urgent Care Locations, services billed by these “small clinics” generally cost anywhere between $75 and $125. How come it’s far cheaper than hospital emergency rooms? For one thing, these facilities are small and have relatively limited medical supplies – just enough to ‘patch the person up’ until the doctor advises a more comprehensive operation. In essence, urgent care clinics also function as a middle ground between patients suffering from moderate health issues to severe medical emergencies.

Top 10 Urgent Care Clinics

As mentioned earlier, opting for urgent care significantly reduces the cost of emergency room visit without insurance without having to severely downgrade the quality of equivalent emergency treatment. According to Health Management, there are approximately 6,900 urgent care centers across the United States. These are the top 11 largest operators in the country:

Hospital pavement

Concentra Urgent Care

  • Number of clinics: 300
  • Nationwide coverage: 38 states

US Health Works

  • Number of clinics: 225
  • Nationwide coverage: 20 states

American Family Care and Doctors Express

  • Number of clinics: 168
  • Nationwide coverage: 26 states

Med Express Urgent Care

  • Number of clinics: 165
  • Nationwide coverage: 14 states

Next Care Holdings

  • Number of clinics: 123
  • Nationwide coverage: 11 states

Fast Med Urgent Care

  • Number of clinics: 93
  • Nationwide coverage: Arizona and North Carolina

Patient First

  • Number of clinics: 60
  • Nationwide coverage: Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia

Care Spot Express Healthcare

  • Number of clinics: 53
  • Nationwide coverage: Florida, Kansas, and Tennessee

Doctors Care

  • Number of clinics: 50
  • Nationwide coverage: Kentucky, North and South Carolina, and Tennessee

Physicians Immediate Care

  • Number of clinics: 35
  • Nationwide coverage: Illinois, Indiana, and Nebraska

Hometown Urgent Care

  • Number of clinics: 24
  • Nationwide coverage: Michigan and Ohio

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