August 17, 2020

How Much Does It Cost to Go to the Hospital?

When an illness or accident occurs, the logical next step is for those affected to go to the hospital so they can get the specific care they need. We also associate hospitals with planned and unplanned surgeries, as well as certain serious illnesses that require round-the-clock care and special equipment to treat.

And yet, for many Americans, the scarier thought than dealing with a major medical procedure is how much it may cost them — something patients often only find out after the care has been administered and the bill submitted to an insurer.

There are even instances in which people have refused medical care because of notoriously high costs.

How Much Does It Cost to Go to the Hospital?: eAskme
How Much Does It Cost to Go to the Hospital?: eAskme

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Furthermore, many Americans have gone into some form of debt as a result of medical expenses. CNBC reports nearly one in 10 Americans with healthcare expenses (9 percent) say they took on “substantial debt” to handle those bills.

And, nearly one in five (18 percent) had to borrow money from their own investment accounts, friends or family members to afford their medical bills.

While the costof a hospital visit depends on many, many factors, it is helpful to understand how much it can cost so you can do your best to anticipate expenses ahead of time. Here’s more.

By the Numbers: Average American Hospital Costs

The emergency department at a hospital serves as a sort of catch-all for many unexpected maladies, from broken bones to chest pains; as well as car accidents to allergic reactions.

It’s important for people to have access to this kind of care 24/7, but many people leave the ER surprised by how much the visit ended up costing them.

The average cost of entry for emergency care was $1,389 in 2017, as USA Today cites. This represents a 176-percent increase over the course of a decade.

Why the increase?

The coding on ER visits has progressively moved toward the more complex — read: more expensive — end of the spectrum.

Here’s a sampling of some of the costliest health conditions requiring hospitalization:

  • Average hospital stay: $10,700

  • Routine childbirth: $3,600

  • Cardiac disease/murmurs: $63,460

  • Heart attack: $20,246

  • Traumatic brain injury: $19,539

  • Sepsis from infection: $18,031

  • Lower limb fracture: $16,796

  • Surgery complication: $13,565

There are so many moving parts involved in setting the price of a hospital stay, but it’s safe to say it’s not unusual for a visit to cost thousands of dollars.

How much patients end up paying out of pocket depends on their insurance policies, but many Americans end up shouldering at least some of the burden here — sometimes most of it.

What Can You Do About Hospital Bills?

Steep medical bills can literally add insult to injury. What can you do about it? Start by reading through them line by line, looking for possible coding errors or incorrect charges. If any entries stick out to you as potentially mistaken, call the hospital and your insurance provider to talk through them.

As many as eight out of 10 hospital bills may contain errors, many of them stemming from human-input codes.

As Healthline notes, there are more than 70,000 codes for diagnoses and more than 71,000 codes for procedures — so some mistakes are bound to happen.

Once you’re confident your bill reflects the services you actually received, it’s time to weigh your options.

Many hospitals offer an extended payment plan and may even offer hardship assistance if you meet the criteria.

If you start to fall behind on payments, past-due medical bills are eligible for a debt relief program. In worst-case scenarios, some Americans do end up filing for bankruptcy due in part or totally to unpayable medical bills, but it’s advisable to explore every other possible avenue beforehand.

There’s no saying exactly how much any given hospital visit will cost, but you can expect to receive a bill for some thousands of dollars based on what the data says about averages.

If you still have any question, feel free to ask me via comments.

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