Hospitals are usually one of the last places a person wants to visit. It’s usually a relief when a patient leaves and returns home. That is until the medical bill arrives in the mail a few weeks later. Medical bills rarely end up being an amount the patient expects, as it is virtually impossible to know what the final amount will be until the bill arrives. This is not surprising considering how confusing in/out of network insurance coverage is by itself, let alone the varying prices in miscellaneous charges. Annual healthcare costs today average around $10,739 per person, but that number doesn’t seem to be going down anytime soon.
Costs on the Rise
Unfortunately for Americans, healthcare costs are only going up. Over the past fifty years, healthcare spending has increased dramatically, becoming one of the country’s largest industries and accounting for almost 18% of the GDP. In comparison, healthcare spending only accounted for 5 percent of the GDP in 1960. To make matters worse, Emergency Room visits, which are essentially involuntary, have seen the highest rates of increase, especially over the last ten years. From 2009 to 2015, Emergency Room spending increased 85%, from 4.3 billion to 7.3 billion. What’s even more shocking, though, is that during this time, the number of visits to the ER actually decreased from 10.5 million to 9.4 million. The average price of an Emergency Room visit in 2009 was just $452, but by 2016 the average had more than doubled to $894.
What is causing the Increase?
There are several factors that are causing the increase in healthcare costs, and more specifically ER visits. One of the more unreasonable causes is the increase in “high severity” visits to the ER. Every visit to the ER has a “facility fee” associated with it, which are coded anywhere between one and five, with five being the most severe. The higher the severity, the higher the facility fee. Between 2009 and 2015, high severity cases (4 and 5) increased by an average of 15%, while low severity cases (1 and 2) decreased by approximately 33%. Unfortunately, once again, the patient doesn’t know what severity their visit was categorized until weeks after. These increased costs have lead to medical debt becoming one of the most common forms of debt sent to collections.
Healthcare costs are practically unavoidable, and unfortunately, they are only getting higher. If you have been hit with an unexpected medical bill, or are receiving calls from debt collectors, please give one of our Bond & Botes offices a call for a free consultation.
Grafton Weinacker is an Associate Attorney at the Bond & Botes Law Offices in Birmingham, Alabama. He holds a Bachelor of Science from Birmingham-Southern College, and a Juris Doctorate from Cumberland School of Law at Samford University. He joined the Bond & Botes team of bankruptcy attorneys in July of 2018. Read his full bio here.