emergency room

Durrie Bouscaren / Iowa Public Radio

In a small room stuffed with cubicles at Mercy Medical Center in Des Moines, a team of patient advocates answers phones, enters data, and determines who is eligible for financial assistance.

When a patient at Mercy is faced with a hospital bill they can’t pay, they come here. Team leader Karla Vaquerano-Serio says many times, it’s only a matter of helping a patient sign up for a federal program they didn’t realize they qualified for.

Emily Woodbury, via Wordle

A trip to the emergency room is expensive, even for more routine procedures. Take for example, Ron Smith, an Indianola resident whose $24,240 bill for a rabies vaccination was negotiated down by $17,627 by his insurance company.

Today, the third installment in our examination of hospital costs. We find out how insurance negotiations play into how much you pay for that ER visit, how Iowa’s insurance landscape may change through the Affordable Care Act, and how the number of visits to the ER may be affected by Obamacare.

Today's guests include:

Durrie Bouscaren

Some Iowans visit hospital emergency rooms more than 15 times a year. They’re known as “frequent-flyers” or super-users of the ER. Today on River to River, how our system handles them.

Durrie Bouscaren / Iowa Public Radio

Emergency Rooms are often the catch-all of the medical world, where patients can receive care at any hour, regardless of their ability to pay.

But physicians and hospital administrators say it’s an expensive and disjointed way for people to receive care, particularly when patients visit the ER multiple times a year.

A pilot program to manage care for ER ‘super users’ in Cedar Rapids is now in its third year—and administrators say it saves St. Luke’s Hospital about a million dollars annually.

Coordinating Care for Multiple Diagnoses

Nick Oza / The Arizona Republic

In the emergency room, the last thing you want to think about is what your bill is going to look like. But, weeks later you will receive a bill in the mail; and you might experience some sticker shock.

Today on River to River, we seek to answer your hospital billing questions. Questions like: why does an aspirin cost upwards of $15, when I can get a generic bottle at the drug store at 2 cents a pop?

Durrie Bouscaren / Iowa Public Radio

No matter how you slice it, medical care is expensive—especially in an emergency.

Martha Norbeck shuffles through paperwork as she looks back over her itemized hospital bill from a bike accident five months ago.

“Just to have the guy come to the ER to do my stitches was $460, the six stitches was $846… so that was $140 a stitch or something?” Norbeck muses.