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ER Costs Vary Widely

Many people underestimate what a trip to the emergency room will cost and then they suffer from sticker shock when the hospital bill arrives. A study led by researchers at the University of California-San Francisco highlights the problem by identifying giant price swings in patient charges for the 10 most common outpatient conditions in emergency rooms across the country.


A release from the university reports that out-of-pocket patient charges ranged from $4 to $24,110 for sprains and strains; from $15 to $17,797 for headache treatment; from $128 to $39,408 for kidney stone treatment; from $29 to $29,551 for intestinal infections; and from $50 to $73,002 for urinary tract infections.


The study, published in the journal PLoS ONE, is based on an estimated 76 million emergency department visits between 2006 and 2008. Senior author Renee Y. Hsia, MD is quoted in the release as saying, "Our study shows unpredictable and wide differences in health care costs. Patients actually have very little knowledge about the costs of their health care, including emergency visits that may or may not be partially covered by insurance. Much of this information is far too difficult to obtain.''


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