Hospitals give same care for 10 times the cost

After being involved in a car crash and feeling like an injury has taken place, the emergency responders always offer to provide you with medical attention via an ambulance ride to the local emergency room. The natural instinct for most people is to play it safe and head to the local ER, “just to get checked out and make sure there’s nothing serious at play.” Most people assume because they have health insurance and/or car insurance that there is no harm in doing so. The reality is that for a large majority of the people who visit the emergency room the day of their accident wind up in a situation that is less than ideal.

Don’t assume we hate our hospitals. Actually, quite the opposite- as local residents of the area, we love our hospitals here in town and understand that they are reputable for many things including cardiac care, women’s health, and wound care. The physicians who are networked into our hospitals are some of the best in the country. And of course we understand an emergency is an emergency and if someone has lost consciousness, the use of any bodily functions, has open wounds, or any other obvious emergency, the ER is the best place for you. However, the majority of auto accident injuries at least involve a component of whiplash, headaches, neck, and low back pain, all of which are more suited to be evaluated in an what is known as an “outpatient,” medical facility. Again if the pain is a 10/10, get your butt in the ambulance.

Most of the injustice that is done is because the hospital will do the same thing that would be done in an outpatient setting, but get to bill much more money for it. The same exact procedures done in a hospital as an outpatient medical facility is sometimes ten times the amount. For example, a CT scan that could be $500 outpatient would be billed almost $5,000.00 done by the ER. This matters with an auto accident because our medical insurance for auto claims (PIP insurance) is only $10,000.00 in the state of Florida and three CT scans for your spine at our ER will certainly blow through that money and regular health insurance is not required to pick up the copay of 20%. The best thing to do on the day that you realize you’re injured is think about whether or not it can wait a few hours or a day to be seen by a physician outside the hospital; for instance at an Urgent Care facility. Hospital visits also come with bills from the group of physicians that work for the hospital (not all one bill), as well as the radiologists who interpret imaging studies. For mild whiplash, headaches, and less severe spinal concerns, the local emergency room would not be the first choice of anyone who works at our firm and sees how this often plays out.

Another important factor to consider is that CAT scans, more widely known as CT scans, are over-ordered at emergency rooms and a bad determinant of spinal injuries. They can be completed in a matter of minutes, and each body part is an additional code that they get to bill. CT scans only scan the bony portions of the spine, just like an x-ray does, but in more detail, and it is not a diagnostic tool for any tissue containing water like the discs, ligaments, and muscles that are in spasms. On top of that CT scanners are highly radioactive and the human body should be limited whenever possible from exposure to unnecessary radiation. ER physicians that order these tests would argue that they are protecting themselves from missing something or someone bringing claims of negligence against them. However, the counter-argument is that an x-ray can accomplish the same diagnostic goal for a fraction of the cost and the fraction of the radiation. But since doctors are the only people in our country that can make these medical decisions, we defer to them, however, the same studies can be done for a fraction of the price, often with the letters STAT written on a script, the very same day at about ten different facilities in Naples.

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