If you've ever been in the emergency room, you may have been overcharged.

Hopefully you will never have the experience of being a patient in an emergency room. For those who have, it’s often quite an eye opener when the bills start coming in. Fortunately, your insurance covers most of it but still people wonder why it costs so much. It seems very unreasonable that a few hours in an emergency room can run into the thousands.Well now it may be that those who thought there was something funny about the extreme costs associated with emergency room visits may have a point. According to a recent study, of billing records for more than 12,000 emergency medicine doctors across the United States, charges varied widely, but that on average, adult patients are charged 340 percent more than what Medicare pays for services ranging from suturing a wound to interpreting a head CT scan. It was also pointed out that at the largest hospitals markups are more likely made to minorities and uninsured patients.

If this is true there is little more to explain this than price gouging of the most vulnerable populations. The studies also show that there is a growing pile of evidence that to address the huge disparities in health care, health care pricing needs to be fairer and more transparent.

There is also disparity depending on the type of treatment that was administered to you, and who actually did the treating. On average, charges were greater when a service was performed by an emergency medicine physician rather than a general internal medicine physician. Overall, general internal medicine physicians had an average markup ratio of 2.1 compared to the Medicare allowable amount. Wound closures were found to have the highest markups.

Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a lot that can be done at this point other than to pass legislation to better oversee and audit emergency treatment more closely in the future.