SPOKANE, Wash. - In an emergency situation, a patient is likely focusing on the shock of the emergency, and little else. A trip to the emergency room can save a life.
But it could also send patients into shock when the bill arrives, saddling them with thousands of dollars owed for using an out-of-network doctor.
These surprise medical bills have many experts concerned -- since few ER patients would pause to ask a doctor whether or not they're in network.
A new article from researchers at Yale report that many emergency room visits involve costly, out-of-network treatment.
The researchers studied more than two million visits to the emergency room.
On average, more than one in five doctors involved in the emergencies were out-of-network for that patient. In some communities, out-of-network doctors accounted for 89 percent of ER claims.
In these cases, insurance companies only paid a small portion of the bill.
Patients are left to shell out, on average, over $600.
In some states, laws protect patients from these surprise costs. But in many cases the charges are hard to avoid, a situation that unfortunately may leave those recovering from emergency situations with one more burden to bear.