The cost of hospital care without insurance can vary greatly, with planned (ambulatory) procedures typically costing less than unplanned (emergency) procedures. The top 10 most common reasons why people go to the hospital include chest pain, abdominal pain, fever, shortness of breath, and headache, among others. The average out-of-pocket cost for an emergency room visit is about $1000-$2200, if admitted, the cost could go up to $10,000-$30,000 depending on the length of stay.
Understanding Planned vs. Unplanned Hospital Procedures
According to the AHRQ (Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality), among adults aged 45–64, for instance, about 73% of all hospital stays are unplanned, often due to emergencies or sudden health complications. This jumps to 79% for adults over 65, due largely to the increased incidence of health crises in this age group. With that being said, nearly half of Emergency Department visits are avoidable or non-emergent. Though a hospital visit can be unplanned, they are not necessarily emergent and could be treated elsewhere like at an urgent care.
Planned procedures, also known as ambulatory or outpatient procedures, are treatments or surgeries scheduled in advance. They tend to be less expensive due to lower overhead fees and the absence of emergency care costs. With planned procedures, you can shop around or even go overseas, and get on an insurance plan if possible before the planned date.
On the other hand, unplanned or emergency procedures can be significantly more expensive. They involve urgent, often life-saving treatment, where time is of the essence. The added cost comes from the necessity for immediate care and the resources required for such care.
Madeline is a Senior at UCLA majoring in Human Biology & Society with a minor in Spanish. She's currently a Healthcare Research Analyst at Mira, writing content for the blog to help the public better understand certain medical issues, technologies, testings, and the importance of healthcare.