Urgent Care or Emergency Room? The wrong decision may cost you BIG TIME!
As an ER/Trauma RN I’ve seen a lot of horrific stuff. I’ve also seen many people come into the emergency room for little cuts and scrapes or the occasional cough and cold.
These days big things are happening within the healthcare industry. A massive shift is taking place, which has emergency rooms all over the U.S. overflowing with patients 24 hours a day. This is due partly from an increased number of people on governmental assistance these days and are required to pay less than $5 out of pocket to visit the emergency room. Combine that with the aging “Baby Boomer” population, which if I remember correctly 10,000 of them turn 65 years of age EACH DAY since June of 2011.
For these reasons and many others there has been enormous growth in “Stand Alone” emergency rooms and the “Urgent Care” Centers. These two establishments, which appear seemingly similar for those not in the know, are very different and serve two very different patient needs and demographics. Knowing just this little piece of information can save the patient THOUSANDS of dollars unnecessarily spent.
I currently work at a “Stand Alone” emergency room. It's pretty great! The pace is a little slower than I have been used to in the past, but it's a nice change. Plus, I'm in NP school right now and I get a lot of downtime to study. Anyway, recently a patient came in complaining of a sore throat and cough. We took care of her, got her feeling better and the patient was discharged. Not much later we all heard a commotion coming from the discharge clerk’s desk. Apparently, the patient had no health insurance and expected to pay a clinic fee of approximately $75 dollars, when in fact she was charged a whopping $865 for her treatment. She had assumed the “Stand Alone” was the same as an “Urgent Care” Center, which charges FAR LESS than an emergency room visit. Needless to say, she was extremely disappointed (It pays to be educated on this).
Many insurance companies urge policyholders to seek medical attention at an Urgent Care Center instead of an emergency room FIRST if they feel they won’t need to be admitted to the hospital. However, many policyholders don’t know this because they don’t know to look or have forgotten. Furthermore, many insurance providers require a pretty hefty co-pay upon discharge from an emergency room that is waved if you have to be admitted to the emergency room. This co-pay has a much higher price tag than most urgent care visits do. This being said, I’d encourage you to check your provider for this info.
Situations to Consider
So, if you find yourself needing medical attention and you are looking for an urgent care, rather an emergency room, be sure to ask before you register. In an emergency room you would be surprised how many costs you can accrue even before seeing the physician! The mistaken choice can be a costly choice, and we all like to avoid spending money unnecessarily.
Well, that’s it! My hope for you in reading this is that you become educated and that you are equipped to make the right decision, the less costly decision if an acute medical emergency arises. I hope this has been helpful. If you feel this post has provided value, please like and share. I think if we all do our part in doing what we can to help others, it helps us all. Thanks so much!
Michael Ward, aka #NurseMike, is an Emergency Room/ICU Nurse, Nurse Practitioner Student, Nurse Blogger (Creator of HaveMursey.com), Entrepreneur, Husband and father of 4 boys. He resides in Dallas, TX.