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Urgent Care: The Health Encyclopedia

April 1, 2014
Health, Medical Costs
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Find the best quality, most affordable urgent care facility

1. What is urgent care?

Urgent care is a type of walk-in clinic that provides outpatient care for illnesses and injuries that require immediate medical attention but aren’t serious enough to warrant an emergency room visit.

2. When should I go to urgent care?

Since most urgent care clinics operate with extended hours, patients often visit urgent care when their primary care provider is unavailable, such as after hours or on weekends. The condition should require quick treatment but not be serious or life-threatening. Some examples include:

  • Sprains
  • Broken bones
  • Infections (ear, urinary tract, etc.)
  • Minor burns or injuries
  • Flu symptoms
  • Colds, coughs, sore throats
  • Minor animal bites
  • Minor allergic reactions

If the problem is serious or life-threatening, though, you should head straight to the emergency room. To give some context as to what these conditions are, consider the following:


3. How much does it cost to go to urgent care?

Urgent care costs can vary based on several factors, including the location of the clinic, whether the patient is insured and the type of insurance and tests/procedures performed during the visit.

Without insurance, urgent care visits generally cost between $71 and $125. Some of the additional services that may raise your cost include medications, injections, IVs, lab tests, X-rays and the casting of broken bones. If you have an insurance plan coupled to an HSA, a visit to urgent care may be a good time to use those funds.

Those with insurance will usually pay a copayment between $35 and $100 per visit.

4. How can I save on my visit to urgent care?

  • Check in with your insurance provider before your visit to be sure the clinic you visit is in-network. Going to an out-of-network clinic will raise your out-of-pocket expenses, especially if you have an HMO insurance plan.
  • Check your copay amounts. If you’re not sure which of the options – emergency room, urgent care clinic or primary care provider – is the best option, go with the one with the lowest copay through your insurance provider.
  • Shop around. Costs can vary significantly from clinic to clinic. Call around to the clinics in your area to find out which one will be the most cost-effective for your illness or injury.
  • Read your bill when it arrives and check for errors. Make sure you weren’t overcharged for any time that you were in the waiting room rather than being treated, for procedures or tests that weren’t performed. You can also try to negotiate a lower bill with the provider; they will often accommodate. If you’re not sure how to negotiate medical bills, consider contacting a medical billing advocate to help you figure out if your bill is fair and accurate.


Cast photo courtesy of Shutterstock.