Medical Emergencies Can Carry High Costs

Medical Emergencies
The high cost of medical and dental emergencies can be overwhelming, especially for those individuals who are underinsured or uninsured. There are a variety of medical and dental emergencies that can arise at any time. Unfortunately, not only can these urgent care situations occur at inopportune or off hours and without warning, but they can often end up being very costly for the sufferer. Here are some common major medical emergencies that could strike at any time without warning and can carry high costs.

Sudden, severe illness or injury can not only devastate an individual physically and financially, but also have a significant emotional toll on sufferers and their loved ones. This is especially the case for those affected individuals who are uninsured or underinsured. Medical emergencies can carry high costs–financial as well as emotional–that could result in large debt, depression, anxiety, bankruptcy, and even suicidal thoughts.

One of the most common forms of medical emergencies stem from injury or illness, which could include a myriad of ailments such as gall bladder disease or appendicitis, which could require surgical intervention and/or removal of the diseased organ. As a result, if they are not properly insured, such a procedure could lead to numerous medical bills, as well as cost the sufferer and their family a great deal of money and emotional distress. Moreover, such conditions can often lead to other medical issues and further expense if complications arise. The costs of such complications can be overwhelming and even catastrophic. Not to mention, the risk to one’s health and well-being if the condition goes undiagnosed. Other common forms of injury or illness that can arise suddenly include head or body trauma, poisonous bites, burns, food poisoning, herniated discs, as well as a host of other ailments.

Another common form of medical emergency encountered is infection. Some of these infections include bacterial meningitis, Salmonella poisoning, necrotizing fasciitis or flesh-eating bacteria, ear infections, malaria, rabies, wound infection, and Lyme disease. Moreover, in the case of infection, illness, and injury, extra precautions should be taken to avoid the development of sepsis, which is a form of systemic blood poisoning. Sepsis is an extremely serious and potentially fatal complication that can arise from medical emergencies, as well as exponentially compound the costs of treatment and risk to one’s life. For the uninsured or underinsured, such a complication could bankrupt the affected individual or family if they survive the ordeal.

A third common form of medical emergency involves cardiac and circulatory ailments such as embolism,  heart attack, internal bleeding, hemorrhage, and a host of other similar events. Such complications could result from trauma or injury, as well as pre-existing or undiagnosed medical conditions. Other common forms of medical emergencies that can arise suddenly include respiratory, metabolic, psychiatric, neurological, and gynecological ailments, as well as a number of other potential issues.

Signs and/or symptoms of medical emergencies could include the following: breathing problems (shortness of breath or difficulty breathing), bleeding that will not stop, chest pain, choking, change in mental status (such as confusion, difficulty arousing, unusual behavior, etc.), vomiting or coughing up blood, loss of consciousness or fainting, suicidal thoughts and/or homicidal tendencies, severe or persistent vomiting, sudden injury/trauma due to a motor vehicle accident, head or spine injury, burns or smoke inhalation, near drowning, ingestion of poison, deep and/or large wounds, sudden, acute pain anywhere in the body, abdominal pain or pressure, as well as sudden dizziness, weakness, and/or change in vision. According to the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP), these signs and/or symptoms are sources of common medical emergencies and can carry high costs.

Sudden and severe illness or injury can not only devastate an individual physically and financially, but also have a significant emotional impact on sufferers and their loved ones. This is especially the case for those affected individuals who are uninsured or underinsured. Medical emergencies can carry high costs–financial as well as emotional–that could result in large debt, depression, anxiety, bankruptcy, and even suicidal thoughts.

An additional source of medical emergencies that is becoming a serious concern in the United States is the rise in dental emergencies. Due to the alarming number of individuals without dental insurance in the U.S., more people are getting emergency dental care at their local hospital and/or ER. In 2009, it was determined that preventable dental crises were the primary diagnoses in more than 800,000 ER visits nationwide, which accounts for nearly 20 percent increase from three years prior (2006). In medical emergencies cases such as these, what could be a $200 filling at the dentist often results in an $1,200 emergency root canal. Not only are these procedures excessively expensive, but they are often completely unnecessary and ill-advised. Unfortunately, such measures that result from medical emergencies are often encountered with those individuals who are uninsured or underinsured.

However, all hope is not lost. There are low-cost dental insurance alternatives available to the public so those in need can get the dental care they need without incurring inept care or crippling costs. Some of these medical emergency alternatives include discount dental plans, which are plans that offer savings from 10 to 60 percent on most dental care procedures for one nominal annual payment. DentalPlans.com is a website that promotes over 30 of the leading discount dental plans in the nation. Additionally, dental schools frequently offer preventive dental care services to the public free-of-charge or at nominal rates. Additional options for free or low-cost dental care include free clinics or health centers, which typically are based on an individual’s ability to pay for services, and pro-bono dentistry. In some cases, dentists will perform dental procedures for needy patients if they cannot pay or offer reasonable payment terms. It never hurts to inquire. FreeDentalWork.org is a good resource for listings of free dental clinics in your area.

While the high cost of medical and dental emergencies can be overwhelming as well as carry high costs, especially for those individuals who are uninsured or underinsured, there are a variety of low-cost and free services available to the public. The Affordable Care Act (also known as ObamaCare) is one measure being employed to address these issues. It is recommended that individuals in need of such services consult their local social services department and search online for additional resources available in their community.

By Leigh Haugh

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GLV–Leigh Haugh

Sources:
National Institutes of Health
WebMD
Kids Health

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