Americans are seeing emergency room sticker shock

Sarah Kliff, who covers health care for Vox.com has been crunching the data on emergency room bills and found some shocking anecdotes.

Sarah Kliff, who covers health care for Vox.com has been crunching the data on emergency room bills. She crunched it hard enough to break off quite a few jagged anecdotes.

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“I talked to one family that was billed $629 for a Band-Aid that an emergency room doctor put on their daughter’s finger.”

They had no way of knowing what they’d have to pay because emergency rooms don’t post the price.

Vox investigators analyzed 70 million emergency room bills and found the so-called “facilities fee” – the cover charge just to cross the threshold – went up 89 percent in six years. That’s as much as three times what it is in comparable countries.

That is shocking. But remember, this is an industry where every customer is either unconscious or in too much pain to go price shopping. Like the guy who woke up in agony with a muscle cramp.

“It was 1 in the morning and he couldn’t sleep. He was there for 20 minutes. They gave him a muscle relaxant. He ended up with a $2,400 bill.”

He did get a deal on the muscle relaxant — that was only $3.50.

So I asked Kliff, who’s been covering health care for a long time, if in all the discussions that have taken place over Obamacare, has anyone tried to address this problem?

“No.”

No! No one wants to give patients more control over costs.

We’re told to trust the competitive health care market in an industry where there are no published prices!

Don’t you think, at the very least, emergency rooms should post their prices in large print? That way we can scan them as the ambulance crew is wheeling you past. Strapped to a gurney. Unconscious.

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