Who knows when a hospital emergency will strike, but it is more frequently than you would expect. In 2015, there were 433 emergency room visits for every 1,000 people. To the extent possible, it is wise to be prepared and choose your hospital emergency room. A little homework while you are feeling good, can ease stress, reduce costs and mean better care. Here are three things you can do now:
- Understand your hospital options and discuss them with your doctor. Different hospitals rank higher than others in the quality of care they deliver. Some hospitals are poor on patient safety. And, some offer better emergency care than others. A University of Michigan study linking emergency room care with patient outcomes shows a connection between the number of emergency room cases a hospital gets and patients’ survival, particularly for patients with life-threatening conditions. The busier the emergency room, the higher the survival rate. The study’s authors estimate that if all patients with serious conditions used the busiest emergency rooms, 24,000 fewer people would die each year. Do not rely exclusively on Medicare’s hospital compare tool; also check the Informed Patient Institute, which rates the usefulness of different online tools.
- Identify the hospital you would want to use in an emergency. Traditional Medicare covers care at virtually any hospital. If you are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan or other commercial health plan, make sure the hospital is in network to ensure continuity of care after the emergency passes. Commercial health plans, including Medicare Advantage plans, must cover emergency care no matter where you get treated. But, your health plan may only cover follow-up care in a network hospital, unless your health is endangered.
- Find the number of an ambulance in your health plan’s network that will take you to that hospital, share it with a health care buddy, a family member or friend, and keep it in a safe place. Traditional Medicare will cover any ambulance that complies with its rules. A commercial Medicare Advantage plan or other commercial health plan may only cover an in-network ambulance. Just Care offers tips for keeping your ambulance costs down here.
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