A bill for nearly $7,000 to treat a cut — without stitches?!

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Need quick medical care for an emergency? Be careful what type of facility you walk into.

There’s a big difference between urgent care facilities and stand-alone emergency room facilities. The former tend to be affordable, while the latter are anything but!

Stand-alone emergency departments are just what they sound like — ERs that aren’t attached to a hospital. And they have the fancier equipment, in-house lab and additional 24/7 staff to prove it.

But along with getting access to all that in a convenient location, you’re also going to pay a heftier price tag for service at freestanding ERs.

Actually, make that a much heftier price tag!

Read more: Top 25 preexisting conditions that could increase your insurance rates

Beware of ER-like facilities that look like urgent care

Some 400 free-standing emergency departments can be found in 32 states, according to HealthAffairs.org.

Many of these types of facilities gravitate toward high-income zip codes as a way to weed out patients who won’t be able to pay. But no matter how much money the people who live in those neighborhoods have, they’re taken by surprise when that bill comes due.

The Washington Post reports that some consumers are being hit with obscene bills — $6,856 for a cut without any stitches or $4,025 for an antibiotic for a sinus infection — from going to these kinds of stand-alone emergency rooms.

This problem isn’t a new one either. Back in 2014, The Dallas Morning News reported that a family was billed five digits for what was allegedly less than five minutes of a doctor’s time.

During that short time, the family’s daughter had a partially dislocated elbow quickly adjusted.

“We were in the facility for less than an hour,” the mother told consumer watchdog Dave Lieber. “We received a weight check, a Popsicle, an exam and the doctor performed a maneuver that literally took two seconds to correct my daughter’s partially dislocated elbow.”

“The total bill? Over $10,000.”

What you need to know to protect yourself

If you value your wallet, you’ve got to be particularly careful with places that have “emergency,” “ER” and maybe even “24/7” in the title.

“When you go to one of these places, don’t settle when they say they take your insurance. That’s not good enough,” money expert Clark Howard says. “You want to know before you agree to be seen what it’s going to cost. If they can’t tell you, you need to find another place to go.”

In-store clinics at places like CVS and Walgreens routinely post price lists right there on their digital boards! So there really is no reason why medicine has to be so opaque.

Read more: The #1 way to prevent identity theft at medical offices

Clark discusses the problem of balance billing in the medical field

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Theo Thimou About the author: Theo Thimou
Theo is director of content for clark.com. He has co-written 2 books with Clark Howard, including the #1 New York Times bestseller Clark Howard's Living Large in Lean Times.
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