What an E.R. Visit Actually Costs

Toddlers and teenagers seem to instinctively do dumb and dangerous things, much to the anxiety of their parents. If these varieties of monsters have blessed your household, you have probably learned far more about the emergency room than you ever wanted to. In case of a medical emergency, getting the right care is more important than the cost associated with it. The price range of emergency services varies widely depending on where you receive treatment and the insurance coverage you have. There are several factors that control how much your E.R. bill will be.

Insurance Coverage

Most insurance plans cover emergency room visits with or without a co-pay. Some plans may have a higher co-pay amount for the E.R. treatments without hospitalization. Be aware that some plans require pre-approval for certain medical procedures. Also, emergency room doctors may be independent contractors, who are out-of-network in your insurance plan. Their service charges may not be covered by your insurance. Therefore, the cost of your E.R. visit may increase significantly.


If you are experiencing severe or life-threatening symptoms, it is best to call 911 and not to be concerned with the price tag that comes with it. Ambulance transportation companies are also independent contractors, and you can expect a separate bill for their services. If you don’t have health insurance, your emergency transportation bill can be as high as $2,000 or more according to a research by Consumer Reports. This number may also be affected by the distance and the level of care you receive while being transported.


A number of diagnostic procedures and laboratory tests may be required to make an accurate diagnosis. Consequently, the cost of these may add up to thousands of dollars. Surgeries and hospital care can also cost a pretty penny. Based on research, surgeries cost $20,000 or more in most hospitals across the United States. Hospital care prices appear to be highly inflated. Patients have reported charges as high as $30 for an aspirin.

According to a recent study by the University of California, the median cost of an emergency room trip is $1,233. An average visit to an urgent care clinic was $156 based on a study conducted by Annals of Internal Medicine. If your medical problem isn’t life-threatening, consider going to an urgent care facility or your primary physician. When an emergency room visit may not be avoided, there are ways to reduce the cost of healthcare. Do some research in advance to keep the costs down. Read the insurance benefits booklet or call the plan provider with questions regarding your coverage. Request an itemized bill when you are being discharged and compare the numbers to your final bill. Dispute and negotiate the charges to reduce your out-of-pocket expenses. If you are struggling in getting the insurance company (or an involved party’s insurance company) to cooperate, you may consider turning to legal counsel for help with your injury.

Despite the hullabaloo surrounding America’s broken healthcare system, we really do have access to some of the most competent, timely, and advanced healthcare in the world (even if not the most efficient or affordable). Maybe the next four years will see systemic transformations that will help keep emergency costs under control, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. In the meantime, it’s important to understand what these things can cost and how to obtain the necessary care without breaking the bank.