Hospital ER charges are rising faster than prices, study finds

Hospital emergency room charges grew faster than ER prices over an eight-year period, according to a new study from the Health Care Cost Institute.

The institute, a nonprofit research organization partially funded by four health insurance companies, examined hospital ER charges (the amount providers bill for procedures) and prices (the average reimbursement a provider receives for a service based on negotiations with payers).

The institute found the average charge for an ER visit increased 120 percent, from $600 in 2009 to $1,322 in 2016. During the same period, the average price for an ER visit increased from $452 to $894, or 98 percent.

Charges also grew faster than prices for individual ER visit severity levels, according to the study. For example, the average charge for the highest-severity level ER visit increased 107 percent over the studied period, from $889 to $1,843. The average price for the highest-severity level ER visit increased 77 percent.

Overall, for all ER visits, the institute found that the average negotiated price was 70 percent of the average charge.

The institute said higher-severity level ER visits had the highest prices, but patients owed smaller shares of full charges compared to lower-severity level visits.

Access the full study findings here.


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