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Are Urgent Care Centers Expensive?

Key Points

  • A recent study found the cost of urgent care visits average only $171, and can be even less if the urgent care bills your insurance and charges you only a copay.
  • The same study found that a visit to the emergency room will cost you an average of $1,646.
  • Urgent care centers are not more expensive than other forms of care, and in many cases, urgent care is less expensive.

Many people worry that urgent care centers might be more expensive than emergency rooms or traditional medical care. However, this is simply not the case.

Generally, there are three ways to get care: a regular doctor’s appointment, an urgent care visit, and the emergency room.

If you have insurance coverage, you can schedule a doctor’s appointment for routine medical needs. If you don’t, how much will you pay at the doctor’s office? Is it more expensive than other care options?

Here is a brief rundown of the expenses patients will face in all three settings.

Are Urgent Care Centers Expensive?

Key Points

  • A recent study found the cost of urgent care visits average only $171, and can be even less if the urgent care bills your insurance and charges you only a copay.
  • The same study found that a visit to the emergency room will cost you an average of $1,646.
  • Urgent care centers are not more expensive than other forms of care, and in many cases, urgent care is less expensive.

Many people worry that urgent care centers might be more expensive than emergency rooms or traditional medical care. However, this is simply not the case.

Generally, there are three ways to get care: a regular doctor’s appointment, an urgent care visit, and the emergency room.

If you have insurance coverage, you can schedule a doctor’s appointment for routine medical needs. If you don’t, how much will you pay at the doctor’s office? Is it more expensive than other care options?

Here is a brief rundown of the expenses patients will face in all three settings.

Emergency room price sample

Visiting an emergency room is very expensive.

A Penn State study found that a visit to the emergency room will cost you an average of $1,646. If you took an ambulance to get there, you’re looking at $550 in addition. The time you spend at the emergency department will average about 2.25 hours, as well.

As you can imagine, this isn’t very cost-effective. As a patient, it’s best to save the emergency room for truly life-threatening emergencies.

Tests, x-rays, and MRIs all cost more than they would outside of emergency rooms because the care is in higher demand. Wait times in emergency rooms are quite long, partly because emergency rooms cannot turn away any patient.

Many people will go to the emergency room even if they don’t have a life-threatening condition because they believe they can get treatment even if they have no insurance. While this is true, it’s generally faster and more effective to consider going to urgent care instead.

Urgent care price sample

The same Penn State study mentioned earlier found that the cost of urgent care visits average only $171, and can be even less if the urgent care bills your insurance and charges you only a copay.

The base price of a visit to a walk-in clinic is added to the cost of extra services, such as x-rays, injections, medications, and casting bones. Urgent care wait times for walk-in patients average 15-45 minutes.

Urgent care centers may also turn away patients who do not have insurance or money at the time of service or people who they feel they cannot treat effectively.

Primary care price sample

If you have insurance, the least expensive way to get care is by going to your primary care doctor. You’ll generally pay a small copayment or coinsurance. If you have a medical need that can wait a few days or weeks, scheduling with your primary care doctor makes the most sense.

Primary care physicians have a set office visit price, which generally ranges from $100-300 depending upon your area and their specialties. Similar to urgent care centers, the primary care physician will add extra fees for each service or test they provide.

Prices vary widely by physician, as there is no set guideline for private practices. Because appointments are always scheduled, wait times for patients average 5-20 minutes. In most cases, a private physician will only see insured patients.

If you don’t have insurance, you may not be able to get an appointment with a primary care provider. That means that urgent care might be your best source of medical care until you can get insurance coverage.

Where should you get care?

If you need care, it’s important to see a medical professional. Don’t let the price of care cost you your health or even your life.

That doesn’t mean you can’t make wise decisions about where you go, though. If you’re paying without insurance, consider comparing prices before going to the doctor using the Solv ClearPrice™ tool. You can also use Solv to find clinics that offer specific services near you.

While people with insurance generally do not have to worry, as they have set co-payments in all three settings, the uninsured medical care seeker should be aware of these price schedules.

Urgent care centers are not more expensive than other forms of care, and in many cases, urgent care is less expensive.

Everyone deserves affordable medical care. Let Solv help you find it!

Sources

Solv has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.

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