Emergency room facility fees are high — and kept secret from patients
Sarah Kliff, VOX.com – There are 141 million visits to the emergency room each year, and nearly all of them have a charge for something called a facility fee, which is the price of walking through the door and seeking service.
It does not include any care provided.
Emergency rooms argue that these fees are necessary to keep their doors open, so they can be ready 24/7 to treat anything from a sore back to a gunshot wound.
But there is also wide variation in how much hospitals charge for these fees, raising questions about how they are set and how closely they are tethered to overhead costs.
Hospitals keep ER fees secret
Most hospitals do not make these fees public. Patients typically learn what their emergency room facility fee is when they receive a bill weeks later.
The fees can be hundreds or thousands of dollars. OUT OF CONTROL | Lab Bills $17,850 for Urine Test
That’s why Vox is running a year-long investigation into emergency room facility fees, to better understand how much they cost and how they affect patients …
At Zuckerberg San Francisco General, the fees ranged from $463 to $9,853, and often made up a significant portion of patients’ bills.
Nina Dang, a 24-year-old woman treated at the hospital after a bike crash, was billed $24,074.50 for her emergency room visit. The largest item on her bill was an $11,176 emergency room facility fee.
And for Spiros Christakopoulos, a 35-year-old father, the facility fee made up about three-quarters of his hospital bill.
He was taken to the hospital by ambulance last February after falling in Golden Gate Park while carrying his young son, and dislocating his shoulder. Hospital Bills Woman, 82, for Pregnancy Test
He was also charged the same $11,176 fee — the one reserved for the most complex visits — and it made up the bulk of his $15,067.70 hospital bill.
“No one tells you the price,” says Christakopoulos. “It’s the only thing in the world where you go in for something and don’t know the price in advance. But what are you going to do? Die?” Read more.