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“A $5,571 bill to sit in a waiting room, $238 eyedrops, and a $60 ibuprofen tell the story of how emergency room visits are squeezing patients.” I read 1,182 emergency room bills this year. Here’s what I learned, Vox
It’s no secret ... one visit to the ER can empty your wallet and your bank account. That's the experience of so many patients — treatments leading to bills totaling thousands of dollars. But as VOX writer Sara Kiff has uncovered, those bills don’t always add up.
All is not well in healthcare today. The American medical sector dwarfs most other sectors of the economy. Hundreds of million of dollars are spent on research. Little progress is made. Costs continue to rise, and Americans are sicker than ever before. Where does this leave employers?
Kiff spent a year reading over 1,000 ER bills sent in by readers across the country. Here's what she found:
1) Prices are high, even for simple things
Huge disparities in costs for simple treatments, like the application of Neosporin on a simple cut or an ice pack on a bruise, can result in the patient being charged hundreds or thousands of dollars.
2) In-network hospitals don't guarantee in-network doctors
An alarming lack of transparency that results in many patients receiving treatment from a provider who isn’t in their network, resulting in bills that are much higher than they would be in network.
3) Charges just for entering a waiting room
Facility fees are rising rapidly at hospitals across the country. And sometimes even charging patients for merely entering the waiting room. Kiff notes, “prices rose 89 percent between 2009 and 2015 — rising twice as fast as overall health care prices.”
4) Patients can't advocate for themselves
Most patients can’t find out what they’re being charged in the ER until they get a bill, often months after their treatment. And by then, reducing payments or negotiating fees is rarely successful. When it is, it requires hours of stressful communication with the hospital.
5) Congress wants to change things
Two proposals are working their way through Congress to help prevent surprise emergency bills, including one which has bipartisan support.
Action in Congress and Kiff’s research tell us something we’ve known for a while. Our traditional system of healthcare is broken. Patients are getting fleeced, and it’s time to do something about it. Creative solutions need to address the root causes of our broken healthcare system. For example, many patients end up in the ER because they don’t have a convenient, reliable, and affordable source of primary care. Others end up in the ER because they don’t have support for managing chronic illnesses.
One way to help reduce ER visits is to provide people with a high-quality, highly accessible source of primary care, like the care available at an on- or near-site clinic. Major employers, like Apple and Amazon, are already experiencing these benefits because they placed an on-site clinic at the center of their benefit strategy.
As an innovative leader who cares about the well-being of your employees, you’re ready to take action.
Find out what it takes to launch your on-site clinic. Read our new eBook: The Strategic Guide to Planning and Launching An On-Site Clinic.
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