Do you know which emergency room you would go to?

Jared Morr  ·  Oct 19, 2018

One afternoon a couple years ago, I felt a mysterious pain creep up my back while I was at work. I doubled over and my co-workers said I was looking so bad I should go home.

I headed out to the small community where I live, about half an hour’s drive from Peoria, hoping that I’d start to feel better after some rest.

That didn’t happen.

As the pain intensified, I realized I would have to seek treatment. The prompt cares weren’t open, since it was now evening, so that meant I would have to go to an emergency room. Back to Peoria I went for what ended up being a severe kidney stone situation.

Unfortunately, things got even worse that night with a very frustrating experience at the hospital. I spent nearly three hours in the ER simply waiting to be admitted and receiving no treatment for the pain. I eventually was admitted, had a CT scan, and received the painkiller I needed. I made it home six or seven hours later, in the middle of the night. Thankfully, the kidney stone passed.

Painful hospital bill

I thought this painful episode was behind me, but a few weeks later insult was added to injury when I received my bill for a staggering total of $10,000! Half of that cost was for the CT scan, which I later learned was five times what a fair price should be according to Healthcare Bluebook.

Now fast forward to February of this year. There was freezing rain coming down and the severe back pain I now knew all too well struck again at 3 a.m. Because of the weather, my wife and I decided not to go to Peoria, but instead drove to a small hospital that is 10 minutes from our house in the opposite direction from Peoria. It’s in a town with a population of less than a thousand people.

My first impressions upon arriving were somewhat conflicting. The security guard—who actually was eating a doughnut, with his feet up on the desk—reminded me of Barney Fife from The Andy Griffith Show. However, the gleaming lights of the newly renovated and expanded ER were reassuring.

I soon learned there was no reason to doubt the competency of the medical staff. I was admitted in about three minutes and received the painkiller I needed within 20 minutes. I was sent home within two hours.

Surprisingly low bill

The total bill was $1,700 for blood tests, IV, painkiller, and doctors’ fees. Still expensive in my estimation, but roughly a third of what the big hospital charged for similar services. And five times faster!

I had been vaguely aware of the small hospital that I ended up at in the providence of God, but it was not my first instinct to go there. Now that my wife and I have seen the smaller hospital, we will definitely go there for an emergency if we have any say in the matter.

The purpose of my story is not to slam the big hospital for being slow … or not taking good care of me … or charging me a small fortune. It’s to ask if you have thought about which hospital you would go to in an emergency.

Research local hospitals before an emergency

Have you looked up reviews of hospitals in your area online? You can learn a lot simply by asking friends  at church what their experience has been. Maybe you just need to voice search “hospitals nearby” on your phone to realize you have options that are closer than you think.

Another thing you can do is check into the quality and price ratings of hospitals in your area by using the Healthcare Bluebook access that Samaritan provides through your Dash account. You could also call the hospitals around you and ask what the cash-pay discount policies are. You will probably find that there are significant differences and a clear choice for which hospital should be your own “preferred provider.”

As I reflect on my two kidney stone experiences, I wish I had done a little bit of research ahead of time. Not only could it have saved me hours of excruciating pain, but it also could have saved thousands of Share dollars for Samaritan members.

I hope by sharing my story I can save someone else from a bad experience and unnecessary expense. 

Jared Morr is a Product Development Manager in IT at Samaritan Ministries.