How to Handle Emergency Room Overcharges

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How to Handle Emergency Room Overcharges

If you have ever been treated in a hospital emergency room, and you did not have insurance, you may have been subjected to emergency room overcharges. The emergency room bill for patients who are uninsured, and do not qualify for Medicare, Medicaid, Medi-Cal, or any other type of coverage funded by the state, is usually much greater than the bill that is given to the insurance company for insured patients.

How Do I Know If I Have Been Overcharged?

You know you have been overcharged for an emergency room bill if your bill is two to four times the rate that is charged to insured patients for the same treatment. In order for you to make this comparison, you will have to find out the rate for insured patients and determine the amount by which it differs from the rate you are being charged.

For example, while an uninsured patient can be charged $15,000 for an overnight stay that includes diagnostic tests, such as x-rays and scans, as well as treatments and medication, an insurance company will usually be charged $3,000 - $5,000 for the same overnight stay and treatment.

What Are the Results of Emergency Room Overcharges?

If you are unable to pay the exorbitant amount of your emergency room bill, you may be harassed by collection agencies. As a result, your credit may be adversely affected and you may even be compelled to file for bankruptcy.

How Can I Prevent Emergency Room Overcharges?

You can prevent emergency room overcharges by carefully reading your hospital admission agreement, and asking about any possible charges prior to signing the document. However, it is highly unlikely that an emergency room patient will even consider reading the agreement and asking questions about charges when the patient is in need of immediate emergency care.

Can I File a Lawsuit for Emergency Room Overcharges?

Yes, you can file a lawsuit for emergency room overcharges. During the years 2006-2008, about 1 million patients were the recipients of refunds or adjustments to their hospital bill as part of class action settlements. Hospitals refunded nearly $1 billion to patients who were overcharged, principally for emergency room care.

In June 2013, a lawsuit was filed against Swedish Health Services, alleging emergency room overcharges, and the case became a class action. The lawsuit states that the hospital charges patients who are uninsured, about three times the usual reimbursement amounts from insured patients for the same emergency treatment.

You may be eligible to join the class action lawsuit if you were treated in the emergency room anytime during the six-year period prior to the date on which the lawsuit was filed, which was July 31, 2012.

Seeking Legal Help

If you think you have suffered emergency room overcharges, you should consult an attorney.

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Last Modified: 03-05-2014 11:13 AM PST

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