Urgent Care Prices: The Average Cost of Urgent Care vs Emergency Room Visits
Emergency rooms provide critical care for patients in need of immediate help. Unfortunately, the costs can be unwieldy, especially for budget-conscious families concerned about medical debt. In a wide range of cases, people can enjoy a much lower urgent care price tag for the same level of expert treatment. To better manage your time and costs, learn why many ER visits don't make a lot of sense.
While they do provide life-saving treatments, ERs saddle patients with hefty bills that can take years to pay. According to at least one study, the average ER visit costs about 40 percent more than what the average American pays for monthly rent. What's worse, because ER prices vary wildly based on individual hospitals and markets, patients have no way of knowing how high their bills will be until they receive them in the mail.
While many of these patients have illnesses or injuries that warrant a visit to the ER, a large number do not. Quite often, ERs find themselves treating minor emergencies, because federal law requires them to offer care to every patient. This not only creates long waiting times, it wastes a lot of money. According to experts, more than $18 billion could be saved annually if patients would bypass the ER in favor of a visit to a primary physician or urgent care facility for “non-urgent” medical problems.
The Average Cost of Urgent Care
Research suggests approximately 60 percent of ER patients could be seen at urgent care centers. According to experts, that would result in an 80 percent reduction in insurer costs and a 58 percent reduction in consumer costs.
From a patient's point of view, an unnecessary visit to the ER can be an expensive decision. The average ER visit can cost a patient at least $750, while the same exact treatment at an urgent care facility generally costs only $200. This price difference can make a substantial impact for families struggling to make ends meet, especially when they can get the same level of quality care at an urgent care facility.
How Do I Know Where to Go?
Open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, urgent care facilities treat everything from broken bones and minor burns to coughs, colds, cuts, sprains and minor allergic reactions. They can provide lab work, x-rays and quick attention from experienced physicians. That said, they are not appropriate for certain types of severe illnesses and injuries.
To better assess your care needs, consult our itemized list detailing when you should visit the ER or an urgent care center. Take the time to familiarize yourself with each instance, so you can make a smart, cost-conscious decision when you or a family member requires prompt medical care.