Emergency Rooms Are Monopolies. Patients Pay the Price.
Category: News & PoliticsVia: the-padre • 3 years ago • 0 comments
V ox worked with the nonprofit Health Care Cost Institute (HCCI) to analyze 70 million insurance bills for emergency room visits from between 2009 and 2015. We focused on the prices that health plans paid hospitals for facility fees, not the hospital charges (which can often be inflated well above what patients actually pay).
The HCCI data shows that prices are rising dramatically and that, increasingly, hospitals have gravitated to using the most expensive billing codes — the level 4 and 5 charges, typically reserved for the most complex visits.
The rising price of emergency room facility fees coupled with growing usage of the most expensive codes mean it’s significantly more expensive to go to an emergency room now than it was six years ago.
Hospitals argues that these increases are due to an aging, sicker population.
But experts on emergency billing argue that this is evidence of hospitals taking advantage of their market power — charging high fees because they are often the only place, late at night or on the weekend, where Americans can seek health care.
“If you have a monopoly — and when it comes to the ER, it’s a monopoly — you can set any price you want,” says Robert Derlet, a professor emeritus in emergency medicine at the University of California Davis, who has been critical of ER billing in the past.
“What is going to deter me from increasing my price? Who can stop me? If I’m the financial officer for the hospital, I might even get a bonus for doing this.”