Is The Nearest Hospital Out-Of-Network?

At the bottom of this post, you’ll find a link to a news story on the NBC affiliate website in New York City.  Please click the link to read/hear the details because they’re complicated.  It concerns a hospital in New Jersey which sent an inflated bill to a patient after a common urgent care procedure.

This example should prompt discussions on more than one issue.  Yes, some hospitals are in danger of closing because their income doesn’t cover overhead (it has already happened to some of them).  It’s also true that an outrageous bill can be a real source of turmoil for some people.

I thought of something related/unrelated to the debate.  Although it’s easy to get from my home to an in-network hospital and my doctor has admitting privileges there, I’ve never considered the implications of emergency care while on vacation.

In the past fifteen years, I’ve been away from the Bay Area three times.  I’ve never investigated hospitals in New York City, Long Beach or Los Angeles.  I never gave much thought to what would happen in terms of billing if someone from out of town went to the emergency room closest to the hotel.  I just would have done it that way.  Under the circumstances, I’m glad that was never necessary.

Medical emergencies can be unpredictable, and most of us who feel well when we leave for a trip assume we won’t need healthcare.  If you don’t think this is something you should invest time in planning, fine.  You might be correct in assuming other troubleshooting is more realistic, such as learning where to find low-fat restaurant food or knowing whether it’s safe to leave your hotel after dark.

According to the WNBC report, the hospital in New Jersey expects the insurance company to pay the lion’s share of the bill.  Still, I think I’ll look into the way my health plan deals with emergencies away from home.

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