The Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star offers some helpful thoughts on what is driving health care costs up the roof — namely, the example of a scarce resource being gobbled up by those who probably don’t need it:

VHI says that at least 14 percent of the 1.3 million visits Virginians made to emergency rooms in 2015 could have been made to the patients’ personal physicians. The costly outcome of those decisions is eventually reflected in health insurance premiums that are higher for everyone than they need to be.

For individuals and families that have health insurance, the impact on the household budget is also affected by avoiding the ER. A typical copay for an ER visit might be up to six times the copay for a visit to your personal physician or to an urgent care office.

As local health care officials point out, it’s smart to know where your nearest urgent care facility is and what its days and hours of operation are. There’s a good chance that you can’t walk in to your personal doctor’s office and get immediate care. There’s also a good possibility that office will be closed if the issue arises in the evening or on the weekend. Heading to the ER should be your last resort.

Case in point?  Visits to a general practitioner for the flu or sinus infection run about $71 to $125 per visit.

A visit to the ER?  $1,318 — and that cost is borne not by the individual rate payer, but by the health care system writ large (and ultimately, by the public who subsidizes health care either through insurance or Medicare).

Well worth the read.