Emergency Room Advice That Can Cut Costs And Benefit Your Health
By Paul Larson
MILLBRAE – Here is more practical advice I discovered at WebMD.com. Below are 5 tips that can be helpful when visiting the Emergency Room (ER) with a serious medical problem:
1. Don’t Assume the ER Is the Right Place for You. You could avoid a long wait and save money by going to an urgent care center instead of the ER. These centers can handle illnesses and injuries that used to be treated only at an ER, such as burns, broken bones, cuts that require stitches, a stomach virus. Save the ER for life-threatening conditions like seizures, serious head injuries, and severe pain, such as pain that could point to a heart attack or stroke.
2. Be Ready to Answer Questions About Your Health. Whether at an urgent care center or the ER, the doctor treating you will need good info to give you the best care. If possible, be ready to provide your medical history including a list of all meds and supplements you’re taking, any allergies you have, a list of previous stays at the hospital, info on any past surgeries, a list of past or chronic illnesses, health problems that run in your family, vaccines you’ve received. It’s a good idea to store all this info on your cell phone using a medical records app. Or if you prefer, write down your medical info and keep it in a place where you can grab it quickly so you won’t have to try to remember it when you’re sick or hurt.
3. Know Your ER Rights. The Affordable Care Act requires insurance companies to cover care you receive in the ER if you have an emergency medical condition. You don’t need to get approval ahead of time, and it doesn’t matter whether the hospital or facility is in or outside of your insurance network. But the key words are “emergency medical condition.” That means your symptoms are bad enough for you to think your health will be in danger if you don’t get care right away. If you have time check with your usual doctor first.
4. Could My Doctor Do This Test Later? You may need a lot of tests while you are in the ER to figure out what’s causing your health problem. This is especially true when you have a medical emergency. But tests done in a hospital can cost a lot more than they would if done elsewhere. If you are able, ask your ER doctor if there’s any risk in putting off tests and scans until you can see your family doctor, who might decide you don’t need them. If you do need them, they’ll likely cost less in a doctor’s office than they will at the ER.
5. Check ER Bills Carefully. You should be charged in-network rates for most of the care you get at the ER. During your stay, though, you might be treated by someone outside your network. This could be a technician or a specialist. Those providers can bill you directly for the difference between what they charge and what your health plan pays. Most plans will cover all ER fees when you’re treated for a true emergency. But you may have to submit them yourself to your insurance company. Check your insurance reports carefully too.
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