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ER Use Impacts Medical Costs

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When you need medical attention, there are three treatment options available. Costs vary depending on which you choose.

There are times when going to the emergency room is the best choice--if you’re having chest pains, or suffer a serious head injury, or think you may be having a stroke, for example. But if you sprain your ankle, or wonder if that sore throat is strep, you might first try to see your primary care physician. Many medical offices today have same-day appointments, and, on average, an office visit is about $250 less than use of the ER.

If it’s after hours, or you can’t get into your doctor, you could consider using an urgent care clinic rather than the emergency room. The walk-in clinics are staffed by doctors and other medical professionals, they have extended hours, and don’t require an appointment. An urgent care facility provides comprehensive medical care for non-life threatening illnesses or injuries and costs less than emergency room visits.

For UNH employees covered by Harvard Pilgrim, the co-pay for use of the emergency room is $75. The fee at a walk-in clinic is about half that, and the co-pay for an appointment with your primary care physician is $10.

When you use an emergency room in New Hampshire, the charge to Harvard Pilgrim can vary from $411 to $1,545, depending on the hospital. For example, an ER visit for an injury or illness of typical medium complexity costs $405 at Portsmouth Regional Hospital; $481 at Wentworth-Douglas in Dover; and $628 at Catholic Medical Center in Manchester. (Rates based on HMO).

While the overall cost to an employee for a trip to the emergency room is low, it’s worth remembering that the high fees passed on to USNH lead to higher benefit costs overall. If emergency rooms were used appropriately, USNH could save more than $200,000 per year. And you could save, too.

In the Durham area, there are two urgent care centers: Barrington Walk-In Care (http://www.frisbiehospital.com/services/walk-in-care/barrington-walk-in-care.aspx) in Barrington and Seacoast RediCare (http://www.frisbiehospital.com/services/walk-in-care/seacoast-redicare.aspx) in Somersworth.

But remember, in the event of an emergency, do not hesitate to go to the nearest emergency room.

To learn more about individual hospital charges and other fees, visit at http://nhhealthcost.usnh.edu/.