Ambulance and Emergency Room: FSA Eligibility
Treas. Reg. '1.213-1(e)(1)(ii)
How do ambulances and emergency rooms function?
In the event of a serious medical emergency, calling 911 for an ambulance and a trip to the emergency room is the preferred method of seeking immediate medical care. Ambulances are either run by private companies or by local fire departments and municipalities. They are typically dispersed in specific zones to allow medical teams to control specific geographical areas to reduce response times.
Ambulance teams typically contain a paramedic and an emergency medical technician (EMT). EMTs are trained in basic life support techniques such as first aid and CPR, and they typically play a supporting role and monitor the patient's condition. Paramedics have a higher degree of specialization and can perform a wide range of medical procedures, such as administering medication, inserting IVs and opening airways.
Upon arriving at the emergency room, patients enter the triage area where nurses prioritize patient care based on their condition. This is typically when nurses record vital signs, investigate past medical conditions, and inquire about medications and allergies that may interfere with the individual's care. Once the patient is registered, the patient will then be moved into the examination room where he/she will have a series of diagnostic tests performed before receiving care from a physician or specialists for the medical emergency (Department of Defense).
What is the average cost of an emergency room visit?
According to a 2012 study conducted by the National Institute of Health (NIH), the average cost of a visit to the ER for over 8,000 patients across the U.S. was $2,168. However, these numbers vary greatly as the difference between the 25th and 75th percentile was $1,957, which infers that there is a broad range of emergency room expenses which vary from hospital to hospital. These services are typically covered by most healthcare plans, but they are also eligible for reimbursement with a flexible spending account (FSA), health savings account (HSA) or a health reimbursement arrangement (HRA).