Urgent Care Without Insurance: How Does It Add Up?
When you're uninsured, finding medical care can be challenging. Most people are aware that a hospital emergency room can't legally refuse to provide them with care. However, that doesn't mean the hospital won't send you a bill.
People who need medical care have many options. Visiting urgent care without insurance can be a far less expensive endeavor than going to an emergency room.
When Should I Visit Urgent Care?
Prevention and early treatment are always best to stave off more serious problems that will require an emergency room visit — and the hefty bills that come along with it. With or without insurance, about 25 percent of American adults say they don't have a regular primary care physician, according to an NPR poll. Without a medical home, when you're sick, you may be more likely to put off care, which could lead to serious complications. You may also be more likely to slip on managing your diabetes or other chronic conditions. Urgent care centers can help fill this gap for wellness, minor illnesses, and small emergencies.
Common reasons to visit an urgent care center are:
- Ear infections
- Cold and flu symptoms or fever
- Strep throat
- Broken bones
- Stomach pain, vomiting, or diarrhea
- Cuts and scrapes
- Minor burns or other injuries
- School and sports physicals
Many urgent care centers can set bones, perform X-rays and lab tests, administer flu shots and vaccines, prescribe medications, and stitch up cuts.
The Cost Difference Between Urgent Care and the ER
Just stepping into the emergency room for care incurs a facility fee, which is usually a few hundred dollars. Based on claims data, insurance provider Cigna estimates that an average ER visit costs $2,259, while an average urgent care visit costs $176. What you actually pay will depend on the center and what tests or services you need.
Debt.org breaks down cost differences even further, looking at specific reasons for a visit. In general, average costs for common illnesses like an earache, bronchitis, strep throat, or an upper respiratory infection ran around $100 at an urgent care center. Costs at an ER for the same illnesses ranged from around $350 to more than $600.
Seek Care That's Conscious of the Cost
Many Americans face financial burdens from medical costs, and it's important to find ways to get the care you need without having to make major changes to your family budget. Nearly half of people without insurance have trouble with medical bills, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey. This leads to people taking on additional jobs, using up their savings, or skipping out on family vacations.
Many urgent care centers are equipped to serve people without insurance and offer a range of payment options. They may have discounted self-pay rates, provide discount programs for people who receive care a few times a year, or offer payment plans to cover things like imaging and X-ray services that typically increase your bill.
Final Insights Into Visiting Urgent Care Without Insurance
Do your research in advance. Know the hours of urgent care centers around you and call to ask about pricing. Centers should be able to give you a self-pay or cash price for basic services.
For centers affiliated with a hospital, be sure to ask if a facility fee will be added to your bill. This way, you'll know whether there are any additional costs to expect. If you're unsure whether you'll be able to afford the cost of a visit, ask about any payment plans that are offered.
Services vary across centers as well, so ask what you can have done at that center. If you have kids, you may want to know whether the closest center sets broken bones. If you suffer from a chronic condition like diabetes, ask if they have services to help you manage your illness and payment options to make consistent care affordable.
An urgent care center isn't a substitute for having a regular primary care physician. But when you're uninsured, it is a good option to find affordable, quality care to help keep you from experiencing major health problems that would set you up for larger bills and more financial hardship. For compassionate care, find an urgent care center near you.
Posted in Personal Health
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*This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute health care advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or physician before making health care decisions.