What Factors Affect Emergency Room Fees?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Emergency room fees depend on the complexity of the case, the types of treatments provided, and who is paying the bill. More complex cases tend to cost more, as do cases for uninsured patients who must pay out of pocket for their emergency room treatments. Many hospitals are willing to negotiate, and it can be helpful to meet with a billing specialist before paying any bills to see if the hospital will accept less than the full amount of the charges.

The types of treatment provided can affect emergency room fees.
The types of treatment provided can affect emergency room fees.

Patients paying emergency room fees pay for use of the facilities, laboratory tests, medical devices and treatments, and the services of care providers. Usually the bill include a series of entries for different parts of the visit, rather than being presented as a single amount. One thing to be careful of is the potential for separate bills; for example, an anesthesiologist may bill separately, leading patients to think they've paid for everything, only to find another bill in the mailbox later.

The complexity of the case is the first determining factor for emergency room fees. Usually the emergency room will charge a flat fee on the basis of how many resources similar cases tend to use. This includes time in a treatment room or bay, nursing services, and so forth. The emergency room will also charge for every treatment administered, from placing an intravenous line to providing the patient with morphine. Emergency room fees can rack up fast with testing to learn more about the patient's case and calls for consults from other physicians.

For something like a car accident, emergency room fees can get very high, as ER staff will stabilize the patient before sending her to surgery, leading her to pay for anesthesia and the surgeon's services as well. For more minor issues like stitches, the patient's fees will be lower, because the situation is not life-threatening. The itemized bill will show all services provided and the cost for each, and patients can dispute items on the bill if they are incorrect.

Patients with insurance will have lower fees, as insurance companies negotiate bulk rates for services. The same is true of government health services. Patients will usually receive a bill even if all the services are fully paid, and they may see the discount rate, showing what the actual price would be, versus the price negotiated by the government or insurance agency. For cash customers, emergency room fees can be very high, although sometimes paying in full within a certain date entitles patients to a discount.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


@Pippinwhite -- Haven't you heard? Obamacare is supposed to solve those problems! Maybe it will and I'm just a cynic, but I have to wonder. I don't know if people who can't afford insurance now will be able to afford even basic Obamacare insurance.

There's no question the health care system in the U.S. is in bad shape, but how do you pay for the health care for 300 million people? Is there a solution? If there is, I can't see an immediate one.

Some say it's the doctors who drive up medical costs, some say it's the insurance companies, some the hospitals, some the government. I don't know. What's a life worth?


The trouble is that indigent patients drive up emergency room costs, which then drive up fees. It's a bad situation. People need medical treatment and public hospitals are obliged to provide it.

Because public hospitals have to take everyone, those who don't pay force the hospital to pass on the costs to those who can pay, which usually means those with insurance.

I don't want people to be turned away, by any means, but I wish there was a better way to treat people who have problems paying without penalizing people who can pay, but may not be rolling in money, either!

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