Average Cost Of Urgent Care Visit
When you need medical attention but can’t afford an in-network doctor or hospital, many insurance plans will pay for an out-of-pocket emergency room visit at one of their preferred hospitals. However, if you’re lucky enough to have health insurance that covers all of your medical needs, like most employer-based coverage, you may wonder what exactly is covered by it. How much does a visit to urgent care cost?
The answer depends on several factors — including the urgency of your condition, whether you are receiving preventive care, which provider treats your condition and how far you must travel to get there. In general, however, the average urgent care visit costs between $150 and $200, according to Debt.org, a financial consulting organization serving the public.
As with any other form of healthcare, prices vary from region to region. So before heading over to your local urgent care center, do some research online to find out what services they offer, along with their rates. Also, be sure to ask about copays and what additional fees might apply.
What should you expect when visiting an urgent care clinic? You’ll probably be asked for basic information regarding your problem, including its onset, duration and severity. A nurse practitioner or physician assistant typically makes the diagnosis based on your description. If necessary, he or she may order tests to rule out certain conditions. Once you’ve been diagnosed, the provider will usually give you treatment recommendations. Depending on your particular situation, this could involve medication, physical therapy, diet consultation or alternative therapies, such as acupuncture, massage, chiropractic or yoga.
If your condition isn’t life-threatening and doesn’t require immediate medical attention, don’t worry. Many clinics also provide preventative care and wellness services such as flu shots and skin cancer screenings.
In addition to standard checkups, many doctors’ offices now offer telehealth services, allowing patients to see providers via video conference instead of making multiple trips to the office. This option is particularly helpful during busy times of day or for those who live in remote areas.
Now let’s look at the specific costs associated with each type of service. Keep reading to learn more.
Urgent Care Centers vs. Emergency Rooms
While urgent care centers can help you quickly address minor injuries and illnesses, they aren’t meant to replace emergency rooms. If you experience serious problems, call 911 right away. Otherwise, unless you absolutely have no choice, make an appointment first. Your primary care doctor can often handle nonemergency issues within his or her practice. It’s not always possible to determine whether your condition qualifies as an emergency without further examination.
Emergency departments (EDs) are designed for treating people experiencing acute emergencies. Patients seeking a second opinion or who simply need diagnostic testing would benefit from visiting an ED. While urgent care centers are generally less expensive than an ED, the latter provides 24/7 access to physicians with specialized training. Additionally, unlike urgent care facilities, EDs tend to accept uninsured patients regardless of ability to pay, although some states mandate that private insurers cover visits to these institutions.
A visit to an urgent care facility is likely to take significantly longer than a quick trip to the ER. Waiting time varies greatly depending upon location, availability of appointments, waitlists and staffing levels. Therefore, you should allow extra time to arrive and complete paperwork. On the plus side, if you’re too ill to drive home after leaving the ED, you won’t have to worry about transportation.
Another factor affecting waiting lists is the patient’s age. Although children under 12 rarely qualify for admission into an ED, kids older than 17 may encounter long waits at urgent care centers. Adults, on the other hand, are expected to stay until the end of their treatments.
And finally, while both types of facilities employ nurses, nursing staff at EDs typically work full shifts, whereas urgent care workers only come on duty when they’re requested. Unlike EPs, urgent care specialists are often required to fill in for absent doctors throughout the week.
Next up, we’ll examine how to lower the costs of your next urgent care visit.
For patients whose insurance plan has an annual cap, the total amount paid out per year equals the yearly cap. For example, if you go to the emergency department three times for an injury caused by a slip and fall accident, each visit will count towards your deductible. After meeting the deductible, your insurer will begin paying 80 percent of the bill, down to zero once you reach the out-of-pocket maximum.
Lowering Costs of Urgent Care Visits
One way to reduce the cost of your next urgent care visit is to shop around for the best price. When comparing prices, keep in mind that not all urgent care facilities offer the same services. Some specialize in giving vaccinations or administering lab tests; others focus solely on diagnosing and treating common ailments. To ensure you’re getting the care you need, choose a provider who offers everything you want, from immunizations to dermatology exams.
You can also save money by choosing a new provider rather than being forced to use the one closest to home. Since most urgent care centers operate independently, they often set their own rates, so you may end up paying more if you patronize them regularly. Even if you think you’re being charged fair market value, shopping around can lead to big savings.
Finally, if you’re planning to seek urgent care services more than once in a given year, consider signing up for a membership program. These programs typically include free initial evaluations and discounted ongoing rates. Most charge a nominal monthly fee to maintain memberships.
To recap, here are the average prices for urgent care visits broken down by type of service:
$150-$175 for an evaluation for nonemergent conditions
$225-$275 for diagnostic testing
$75-$100 for medications prescribed by a licensed professional
$125-$155 for follow-up visits following a recommended procedure
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