Study Finds Nationwide Variance up to $73k in Outpatient ER Charges

A study by the University of California San Francisco found huge differences in billing rates for emergency room visits across the country.
Using data from the 2006-2008 Medical Expenditures Panel Survey from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, researchers analyzed an estimated 8,303 ER patients ages 18 to 64, half of whom had private insurance for the most common outpatient procedures. Among the greatest variances were for urinary tract infections, which cost patients between $50 and $73,002 in out-of-pocket expenses.

Key findings of the study include median billing charges (not payor reimbursement rates) of $740 for upper respiratory infections, $3,437 for kidney stone treatments and $1,233 for overall outpatient conditions. Uninsured patients had the lowest median ER price of $1,178, followed by $1,245 for the privately insured and $1,305 for Medicaid beneficiaries.

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