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Why are emergency room visits becoming more expensive?

More Americans have health insurance than in decades past, due in large part to the Affordable Care Act. In fact, the number of uninsured Americans dropped from 48 million in 2010 to 28.6 million in 2016. However, that's still a lot of uninsured people.

Even with insurance, even more or less routine health care can be expensive. Medical debt is still the leading reason why people file for personal bankruptcy. Just like most everything else, the cost of medical care is rising. However, the average price of an emergency room visit rose 40 percent between 2012 and 2016, to over $1,900.

There are several reasons for this. First, the technology and equipment in ERs is increasingly sophisticated and, therefore, expensive. Further, more people are opting to go to urgent-care facilities for comparatively minor injuries, like broken ankles, than to the nearest hospital. ERs are increasingly dealing with more serious situations, like gunshot wounds. This drives up their costs and, consequently their fees. Part of the cost of going to an ER is based simply on the fact that you walked in (or were transported by an ambulance, which is a whole other hefty expense).

If you're hit with a substantial bill for your ER visit, there may be ways to mitigate it. First of all, read through the itemized list of fees on the invoice. Hospitals sometimes make errors in billing codes that can result in bills that are hundreds or even thousands of dollars more than they should be.

If the charges are accurate, but you can't afford to pay the bill, talk to the hospital to see if you can arrange a payment plan or perhaps agree on an amount you can pay. Most medical providers would rather get something from patients who are willing and able to pay what they can than pay collection agencies that can't collect what people don't have.

If your medical debt has become overwhelming and is impacting your ability to pay your other bills, you may want to consider bankruptcy. An experienced bankruptcy attorney can review your specific situation with you and help you consider the pros and cons of bankruptcy so that you can make an informed decision.

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