With medical expenses skyrocketing every year in the United States, it’s important to do research on medical care facilities and costs before an illness or injury catches you off guard. Often the debate arises between going to an ER or an Urgent Care for after-hour care. We’re here to help clarify which facility is appropriate for your condition and expenses to expect from both.

Should I go to an ER or Urgent Care?

The best way to determine whether you need to visit an urgent care or an ER is to evaluate the severity of the injury or illness. If you have an extreme medical condition – such as a heart attack, stroke, or severe burns – don’t hesitate and go to the ER immediately. Urgent Cares are not usually well-equipped to handle severe conditions. Choosing an Urgent Care in severe medical cases means you may be billed as much or more than the ER. If an Urgent Care is not able to treat you, an ambulance may be called to transport you to the ER or you may be told to go to the hospital instead. This mostly leads to wasted money, time, and effort. Rule of thumb is always go to the ER if your condition is severe.

Urgent Cares are for less urgent conditions such as the flu, minor burns, allergic reactions, animal bites and bone fractures. While Urgent Cares are sometimes equipped to treat commonly broken bones, it’s better to go to the ER in case the break requires surgery.

Be aware that off-site ER’s are popping up around the country that look just like Urgent Cares. These facilities are likely convenient, but will charge the high costs of an ER. Make sure to do your research and ask questions before being blindsided by these facilities. Be better prepared now by locating an in-network Urgent Care near your home and place of work before a minor injury or illness pops up.  

What costs can I expect at an ER or Urgent Care?

It’s always extremely important to make sure an Urgent Care is in-network with your insurance before you visit. While an Urgent Care may accept your insurance, it could be considered out-of-network. You will then be responsible for paying a large portion of the bill. Call your insurance ahead of time to determine which local Urgent Cares are in-network. This saves you from any confusion with the front desk and billing department. Insurance companies are more likely to be upfront with you about costs and coverage than medical facilities.

When it comes to the ER, all hospital Emergency Rooms are required by federal law to provide care to all patients. Regardless of if you have insurance, or what type of insurance, it will be accepted without much explanation of the costs to follow. Costs add up quickly at the ER due to ambulance transport, x-rays, out-of-network doctors, MRIs, lab tests, etc.

When comparing the two, Urgent Care procedures covered by insurance costs around $50-$150 per patient visit, while an average ER visit costs around $1200, according to a 2013 National Institute of Health study. Clearly, an Urgent Care visit is considerably cheaper, and should be used in all minor injury and illness cases. However, the ER is necessary for treating all severe medical cases.

Tips to avoid a high medical bills

  1. Check with your insurance provider first to see how Urgent Care centers are covered and which local Urgent Cares are in-network.
  2. Don’t be fooled by off-site ER’s and make sure to find a local Urgent Care near you.
  3. Decide if an injury or illness is severe enough for an ER visit. Visit your locally covered urgent care if symptoms are minor to save on costs.
  4. Use your in-network doctor to provide prescription refills, yearly check-ups, and sick visits if you can be seen quickly. Costs will be lower than visiting an urgent care or ER.
  5. Follow-up with the billing department after both ER and Urgent Care visits for itemized billing if your bill seems unreasonably high. Ask questions and look for mistakes, which do happen. If something seems off, contact your insurance to walk you through charges and help fight with you if you were charged unfairly.

We want to make sure you are fully taken care of physically and financially. For any questions regarding patient services, insurance we accept, or billing, please explore our website further or call us at (866) 213-6746. We believe excellent healthcare should be quick and affordable because at Our Urgent Care, we’re everything but the hospital!