How much does it cost to go to the emergency room?

by Erika Torres

Those were the first words out of my husband’s mouth as he woke me up at 11 pm last week and stood at the foot of our bed with the left side of his body hanging limply, all Quasi-modo style.

“What?!” I asked him. I jumped out of bed, put my Uggs on and a jacket, and off we went to the emergency room. Somewhere in between, he told me the story about how he went up for a header in soccer and was T-boned into his side by some asswipe. Eric landed straight on his back on a hard surface.

As we drove to the emergency room, everything flashed before me. I hope there is no permanent damage, I hope this doesn’t affect his career, I hope this doesn’t hurt his chances of getting hired at his new job….I wonder how much it costs to go to the emergency room, how much money do we have left in our flex medical spending account?

Thoughts were all a blur. When we entered the emergency room, all I could think was–this is NOT like Grey’s Anatomy. Where are all the doctors and nurses running around? Where are all the gunshot wound patients?

Instead, we waited for about 15 minutes before we were even admitted into the emergency room. Then it was another few hours of waiting around. Doctors obviously don’t know the definition of the word emergency. I did wonder if we would have been better booking into somewhere like a san francisco urgent care facility but, no, Eric was set on going to the emergency room and, since we’d been admitted, we might as well wait it out.

He had a CAT scan done, which revealed that he had fractured two little bones on the bottom half of his spine (L2 and L3 of the transverse process–if you really want to know). And the muscles that attach to those bones are the hip flexors, making it painful to walk or twist in any direction.

(side note–did anyone know that muscles are attached to bones? because i didn’t. All pictures always look like the skeleton is separate from the muscles…who knew?)

Full recovery is expected, but he won’t be able to do any heavy lifting for 4-6 weeks. however, the injury should not affect his career in any way.

The good news is:

  • a complete recovery is expected
  • no permanent damage is done
  • he’ll be up and at’em in a few more weeks
  • Emergency room visit cost us only $150 ($50 copay and 20% of visit)

The bad news is:

  • if he’s not working, he’s not getting paid.
  • we just moved into a bigger place with higher rent
  • he doesn’t qualify for disability
  • he’s mostly on bed rest and can’t do much

So there we have it. It feels like every time we move forward a couple of steps, something happens to push us back down.

Obviously, I want my husband to get better and I’m upset that he’s hurt.

But bills don’t stop coming just because someone gets hurt.

He’s been out of work for about a week now, and it looks like it may be at least another week before he can start driving again. His work has said they will be able to find some light duty work for him to do, which would be a big help.

I don’t want Eric to slow down his recovery by going back to work too soon, but at the same time, it will be a big financial hardship to have him out of work for a whole month. Two weeks? We can manage. A month? I don’t even want to think about it.

It’s not like when he was in the academy and not working for four months, which we had months to save and prepare for.

I know it will be okay, but it’s been a little daunting to think about. I think we’re very lucky that I will have overtime on my next few paychecks and we’re also not spending much since we’ve been mostly housebound.

Have you ever been to the emergency room?

image source


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Randa April 11, 2012 - 5:47 pm

Glad your husband is okay! I had to go to the ER the very first week of January and it was crazy expensive! I thought I just had a nasty stomach virus that wouldn’t go away but ended up getting emergency surgery and a night stay at the hospital, plus a week of complete bed rest. The bill was over $30,000 which my insurance paid most of but I still had to pay almost $2000.00 out of pocket [not to mention the money I lost because I couldn’t go to work]. While I’m glad for what they did, hospital visits are INSANELY expensive.

Nichole @ Newlywed Nichole April 10, 2012 - 6:38 am

Oh no! Well I am glad he is mostly okay. I defintely feel like any time we get ahead in our house, something puts us back a bit, too. But at least it isn’t permanent and he will be okay 🙂

Paul @ The Frugal Toad April 9, 2012 - 6:40 am

Glad to hear that your husband is on his way to recovery, that must have been scary! I ended up paying around $450 for a laceration and all they did was put some super-glue on it! ER visits are extremely expensive.

Jessica @ Budget For Health April 6, 2012 - 10:02 am

man, I’ll be praying for his healing and that you’d find comfort in God who provides for our needs. We’re in the process of building our 6-month emergency fund. I guess these are the unexpected speed bumps that make this fund so important to have! I also just got home from getting my wisdom teeth out this morning- $378 for the anesthesia and the pain pills is a hefty expense, but once again grateful we’ve planned for these rainy-day occasions.

SB @ One Cent At A Time April 6, 2012 - 4:48 am

Ohh that’s bad..Wish him ‘get well soon’.

Jai Catalano April 6, 2012 - 4:46 am

Thank God he will get better first and foremost. I hated reading the title but the content made me really happy. I want to point out a couple of things though. First nothing is pushing you guys down. They might be swinging at you but you and Eric are bobbing and weaving. Yes we all get hit but I know you will get past this fine. Eric is tough and so are you. Second you have all of us.

Give a big hug and kiss to Eric for me and give it to him on the lips. 🙂

eemusings April 5, 2012 - 3:15 pm

Yikes. I wish him a speedy recovery!

ER is free here, though the waits are long. I too hate when T is injured because his work is fairly physical and he’s hourly, not salaried.

Lindy Mint April 5, 2012 - 2:48 pm

At least you didn’t do what we did and call an ambulance. I can tell you those cost $800. We learned that lesson the hard way. (It was only a kidney stone, but my husband doesn’t handle pain well, and I panicked not knowing why he was freaking out at 2 am)

$50 for ER copay is not bad at all. Ours is $200, plus the 20% coinsurance. I’ve had to take my littlest son there too many times for head bumps and after-hours coughing attacks because they don’t have pediatric urgent cares in my town.

TB April 5, 2012 - 9:23 am

I’m serious and truthful when I say this, you DONT have to pay ER expenses. You read that correctly. Hospitals make you think that you do and really scare you into thinking that you do, they give you a bill and send you a bill, and there’s no indication on there that you DONT have to pay. But trust me, from a guy who often can’t pay, you DONT have to pay. Obviously doctors and nurses and hospital people need to make a living and most people actually want to pay for the ER service, but if you do not pay, there is no garnishing your wages or credit score drops or late fees or anything. You DONT have to pay at all. AGain though, most people want to actually pay, and they should becuase those doctors do need to get paid for their hard work; so hospitals are happy to set you up with a payment plan. I’m on one now for a back thing a few months ago. And if you miss a payment, nothing happens. They can’t do criminal action against you and it won’t touch your credit score. They’ll call you a lot though, A LOT. So if you can’t pay right away, don’t. Tell them you want to get on a payment plan (there’s zero interest and you can decide how much you pay a month). Having no insurance myself, I’ve had to learn the intricacies of this system!

Paul @ The Frugal Toad April 9, 2012 - 6:35 am

TB – So who do you think pays your bills that you feel you “don’t have to pay”?

Amandalynn April 5, 2012 - 7:47 am

And now when those Aflac commercials come on the tv your going to want to throw something at the goose. I am so sorry that Eric got hurt, and hope and pray he heals soon and can get back to work sooner than expected! The hardest part will be trying not to stress out – or stress him out – during recovery… because sadly, that does affect your healing process. 🙁 Hang in there girl.. You will figure it out! You always do! 🙂 xoxoxo

Debbie April 5, 2012 - 7:24 am

Praying your husband gets better soon. Also, praying that you can pay your bills. Thanking God his accident was any worse. Happy Easter to your family.

Jassyau April 5, 2012 - 12:18 am

I’m a doctor, and worked in an ER for a while. What people don’t realise is how constantly ER doctors and nurses are working. We’re not gonna run around for a sore back. We save our speed and adrenaline for life-or-death cases, of which there are plenty.

Having said that, I hope Eric feels better soon!

B. (Below Her Means) April 4, 2012 - 7:41 pm

First of all, so glad he’s okay,

Answer to the blog post title = $1300+ if my recent depressing post is any indication:

Shannon April 4, 2012 - 5:59 pm

I was trying to comment on your blog this AM when my work computer crashed. SO once again….hope Eric gets well soon. That is a scary situation to be in!

Reply April 4, 2012 - 5:14 pm

First of all, great post. I actually got really inspired by your side hustle income as a way to knock out debt and really added to my plate big time. I’m a writer/English prof and I’ve been doing well writing a ton of articles but it’s actually left me little time to write for my own blog! At the same time I get kind of addicted to the excitement of earning income that was not originally factored into the budget, thus it’s surplus – Can you geek out with me on that one?

Secondly, it really baffles me that someone would criticize you for saving for a vacation when you have 22k in debt. David Ramsey’s plan doesn’t work for everyone. Want to know how much student debt I have? Well I have 40k and my husband is in med school. When he is finished in 3 years, he will have borrowed 350k… yeah, we’re talking almost 400k combined. If we waited until we finished paying that off to do anything fun, we’ll be old and gray after a life without any enjoyment. There are lots of ways to balance life out. There is no way the paying off all debt then have fun formula would work for us. We already have a separate high yield savings fund for a big one month trip two years from now and we are stoked. It keeps us going and keeps us saving.

Keep up the good work – and sorry to ramble on and on!

MommaStar April 4, 2012 - 5:09 pm

I’m glad Eric is okay. Sorry Murphy paid you visit. On the bright side the emergency room visit didn’t cost nearly as much compared to others. I believe my dad just recently paid $400 for his visit. That’s because he didn’t have any insurance O.o

Adrienne April 4, 2012 - 3:49 pm

OH my gosh. When I read the word fractured, my heart SANK. I’m so glad he’s going to be okay, and I am so sorry this happened to you! I can only imagine how stressful this must be 🙁

Jeff April 4, 2012 - 3:25 pm

glad your husband is ok. But that being said you were blessed with that ER room. The ones around here, you would wait two hours in the waiting room of an ER and then another two hours after getting your space in the ER to be seen by the doc and his/her request to start taking place. It’s crazy. The only exception to that rule are the truama’s that come in and get immedate attention.

Frugal Portland April 4, 2012 - 2:15 pm

Aaaaaa scary! Thank goodness he has you.

Teacher Girl April 4, 2012 - 2:09 pm

That must have been terrifying! I am glad that he is going to be okay and I will be praying that his recovery is speedy! *hugs* =)

shopping2saving April 4, 2012 - 1:06 pm

Haha love the picture reference. I hope he is doing well… I can’t imagine how painful that must have been. But $150 from ER is not bad at all. I went to the ER probably 4 times during my freshman year of college… lots of partying and I ended up getting injured haha. My mom ended up paying almost $2000 for xrays and the like.

Hope he gets well quicker and gets back to work!!! (sorry that sounded mean LOL)

Kate April 4, 2012 - 11:39 am

I’m glad he’s going to be okay, and I hope he recovers quickly.

CeCe @Frugalista Married April 4, 2012 - 8:22 am

Yes, I did know muscles were attached to bone. Not sure how…sciences were never my forte. Well, glad the hubby will be okay. It is kind of scary sometimes to sit back and think that our very livelihood depends upon showing up somewhere 5 days a week 8 hours a day. We work or we don’t have anything. You two are good with finances so I know you will figure out a way to make it over this hump.

ImpulseSave April 4, 2012 - 8:11 am

What a night! At least it is nothing too serious or permenant, but that this still difficult to get through. I’m glad your visit was not too expensive, that is always one of my main concerns when someone goes to the emergency room. I have been a few times, but I can’t remember it ever costing more than $150. I do know that ambulance rides are very costly – helicopter rides even more so. My sister had to ride in an ambulance once and the initial bill said more than $1000! The insurance company paid for most of it, but it was a scary moment!

Jordann @ My Alternate Life April 4, 2012 - 7:39 am

My first and only visit to the emergency room was when I went in after my car accident last summer. I waited for 8 hours to be seen (4pm-midnight) because my injury was classified as not urgent and I was not in pain. Although I understand this logic, it was still annoying.

The upside is it cost me nothing because I live in Canada and we have universal health care (the long wait time is the trade off).

I hope he feels better soon! Good thing there is no permanent damage, hopefully he’ll be up and around sooner than projected.

Tanner April 4, 2012 - 7:00 am

Poor Eric. I for one find it slightly amusing the first thing he thought was about how much this was going to cost. You guys are in the same page about this, but as you said, if he can’t work, he just can’t work. Would you have an EF that can cover for at least a month of the expenses, were something to happen? If not, I think after he recovers is a great time to start one! I know people prefer 1k EF first, but in a real emergency emergency (like what Eric is experiencing), 1,000 just may not be enough. Hope he recovers well, and recovers soon! Best of luck.

Melissa April 4, 2012 - 6:55 am

Oh my goodness! So sorry Eric is hurt, but I’m glad he’s going to be OK. I’m sure the next month will be tough, but hopefully it’ll just fly by and then things will get back to normal.

I’ve been to the ER twice. Once when I was 13 or so, and I sprained my ankle, and a second time a few years ago when a whole half of my face went numb, and Telehealth (a public health phone hotline where a RN will listen to symptoms and offer advice) told me I was probably having a stroke! Turned out that I just had an allergic reaction to some new medication. I now know that apparently 90% of the time Telehealth will tell you to go to the ER for liability reasons. Lesson learned! haha

Jackie April 4, 2012 - 6:53 am

Wow, I’m glad he’s going to be ok. I’ve been to the emergency room quite a few times and what I’ve learned is that the longer you wait, the less danger you are generally in.

Pam at MoneyTrail April 4, 2012 - 6:26 am

What a scary experience! I am so glad there is no permanent damage. I have been to the emergency rooms several times, for hubby and for kids. I have been fortunate that the thoughts that run through your mind are usually so much more horrifying than the actual problems.

Our cost varied depending on the insurance we had. It has ranged from a $60 copay to $1000 for 6 stitches on my son’s face. We were on a high deductible plan at that point.

The good thing is that you are super aware of your financial status. Try to cut back to the bare bones budget and catch back up when he is recovered.

jobo April 4, 2012 - 6:19 am

oh no!! I am so sorry to hear this! The asswipe should pay for it!! What a jackass. I hope Eric recovers quickly, as I am sure he will (given he is a strong strapping man and all hehe). XOXO

Shaba April 4, 2012 - 6:07 am

So sorry Eric is hurt!

You know, this is what gets me frazzled about finances. I KNOW I should be aggressively paying down debt AND putting money into an emergency fund, but what do you do when life gets in the way? I feel like life is always in my way. We’ll be trucking along well and then bam, something happens. A car accident, a major appliance breaks, I’m laid off, the dog get sick….how are you supposed to get to that place of a well cushioned emergency fund when it seems like every few weeks you find yourself in an actual emergency?

hemborgwife April 4, 2012 - 6:03 am

I have been to the ER with my great grandma which was all around horrible with one of those waiting rooms from a TV show with bloody people and what not so when I had to take my husband I was nervous but we went to Hoag and the waiting room was really nice as was all the staff.
What was crazy though is the ER visit was cheaper then the medication they prescribed him!

Jessi April 4, 2012 - 5:45 am

I’ve been to the ER more times than I’d like to count- once for a life threatening injury. I wasn’t cognizant when that happened- but my sister said that was very much Grey’s Anatomy in the rush (and there did happen to be a gun shot victim that day… he shot himself while drunk) Every other time has been like you described- a very very long wait.

A few years back I had an eye infection that I waited out (horrible horrible experience) until the Drs opened the next day. I didn’t want to pay that copay! Turns out I could have gone blind- oops, lesson learned. The next time it happened again, it was just a scratch- and a big bill.

This year, I thought I broke my wrist, so I had to go. Turns out it was a severe sprain (couldn’t move it at all for weeks)- but I had a pleasant surprise, the new insurance we have has NO copay, even before my deductible is met. I didn’t pay anything at all.

Hope your husband is okay, glad there is no permanent damage.

If you email reply to me, I can give you information about some legitimate work at home stuff that might help supplement a bit.

Michelle April 4, 2012 - 5:22 am

I’ve only been once (lets just say I drank a little too much that night and had too much fun). It was $150. So expensive!

kate April 4, 2012 - 5:21 am

Wow! That’s really scary. I’m glad that there’s no permanent damage and he’ll be ok. Hang in there on the financial side. It could be worse; you’ll get through it.



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