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How Non-Emergency ER Visits Skyrocket Health Care Costs

By Blue Cross NC | August 25, 2015 | Healthy Lifestyle, Industry Perspectives

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It seemed like the right thing to do at the time: You’re not feeling well. It’s late. You’re worried something terrible might happen. 

So you get someone to drive you to the emergency room, you wait for a few hours, and then you’re discharged. In a few days, you’re back to normal.

That is, until you get the bill. Of the top ten most common ER visits, the average cost of service is $1,200 a visit. That’s nearly one and a half times the average monthly rent in the United States.

The Right Care at the Right Time & Place

Most of us know that the ER is far from the most efficient place to get care. But when only 11% of visits to the emergency room result in a hospital admission it’s pretty clear there’s a problem when non-emergency ER visits.ER-Visits
Not to mention 65% of issues taking people to the ER are considered non-emergencies or could be treated by a primary care doctor within 12 hours. A recent study indicated that treating many of these non emergencies at urgent care or retail clinics could save over $4.4 billion.

And unfortunately, the news doesn’t get better. Since 2014, ER visits have increased 27% among our customers who get their coverage through the Affordable Care Act marketplace.

Those statistics don’t just add up to a headache for health care providers and your wallet, they also put a tremendous strain on the health industry.

What’s Sending Patients to the ER?

So what health events prompt ER visits that really aren’t emergencies? Our claims data tells us quite a bit. (See chart to the right.)

Emergency rooms are for emergencies. And while it’s difficult to make a decision in panic mode, there are ways to tell what constitutes a truly life-threatening circumstance. Not to mention that there are many other options – many of which are open beyond business hours – including urgent care centers and clinics. We even have a 24/7 nurseline for when you need a second opinion.

To help you make a smart decision – for your health as well as your wallet – get familiar with the following chart:


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