You’re at home and you or someone in your family has an accident or becomes suddenly ill. You know that you need medical care immediately, but your doctor’s office is closed. Should you go to the Emergency Room or Urgent Care? When there is a medical emergency, you need to think quickly. Here are some guidelines to help you make the right decision as fast as possible when emergency strikes.
The first thing you need to ask yourself is whether the situation is a true emergency. Is the condition life-threatening? You can’t always tell, so you need to use your best judgment.
If the situation isn’t obviously life-threatening, but it still requires immediate attention, urgent care is probably the right choice for you. Urgent care centers can be separate facilities or they can be attached to a hospital. Most urgent care centers are open after normal business hours and on weekends. They aren’t set up to cope with major trauma or serious medical conditions, but they can handle many issues that require immediate attention including common sprains, vomiting, severe sore throat, fever without a rash, persistent diarrhea, or painful urination.
When the situation is severe or potentially life-threatening, the ER is the right choice. Emergency rooms are attached to hospitals and are open around the clock, seven days a week. They can provide fast, specialized care for a wide range of conditions including broken bones, head or eye injuries, deep cuts that require stitches, seizures, serious burns, loss of vision, high fevers with a rash, severe abdominal or chest pains, large open wounds or bleeding that won’t stop, and many others.
Most of the time you’ll save money and receive medical attention faster if you go to urgent care instead of the emergency room. Specialized care makes ERs the most expensive type of emergency treatment, and they’re known for having long wait times. Most health plans cover at least some portion of emergency care, even if you’re out-of-network. What they don’t cover are ER visits for non-emergency care, leading to high out-of-pocket costs. There may also be a separate charge for the physician who treats you in the ER. The networks for most health plans include urgent care centers and your co-insurance or co-pay charges for visiting urgent care will usually be lower than those for an ER visit.
People often mistakenly use the ER to receive urgent care. The bottom line is that if you know what you’re up against, you should use urgent care. If you’re not sure, it’s better to be safe than sorry and go to the emergency room.
Still not sure what constitutes an emergency or which emergency costs are covered by your plan? HealthMarkets is here to answer your questions and make sure you have the health insurance you need – and it won’t cost you a penny. Call HealthMarkets today to get the answers you’re looking for.