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Watch out for these surprise charges at the ER

Millions of people who choose an in-network hospital for emergency room care are still being treated by an out-of-network doctor. And that can lead to much higher bills.

More than one-fifth of emergency room patients who attended an in-network hospital were cared for by out-of-network physicians, who are allowed to charge higher payments than in-network doctors, according to a working paper by Yale researchers recently distributed by the National Bureau of Economic Research. The average bill for people who were seen by out-of-network doctors was $622.55, which could be enough to push some Americans into the red.

Patients are obviously not often in a position to choose who cares for them during an emergency room visit, or are too concerned about their own condition to think about whether a doctor is out-of-network.

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