West Virginia hospital to charge upfront co-pays for non-emergency ER visits

Thomas Memorial Hospital in Charleston, W.Va, in about a month, will begin charging upfront co-pays to patients who visit the hospital's emergency room for non-emergency care, according to the Charleston Gazette-Mail.

Upon entry into the ER, patients will be screened to determine if they require emergency care. If they come to the ER for a non-emergency reason, they will be informed of the co-pay and be able to decide to stay and pay the upfront co-pay or visit another provider.

"The emergency room can be a very costly place to receive care, because if you're not being seen by the same physician all the time, every time you present the doctor's got to start from scratch," Dan Lauffer, president and CEO of Thomas Health System, told the Charleston Gazette-Mail.

About 30 percent of patients who present in Thomas Memorial's ER receive care for non-urgent conditions. The upfront co-pay will help offset the bad debt the hospital incurs providing care to the uninsured and underinsured.

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