Posted by Naomi Nessim, October 14, 2016 (last updated on November 27, 2018)
Healthcare costs are confusing, no doubt about it. But when you have an injury or illness that needs attention, the last thing you should be worrying about is what getting treated is going to cost. While you may have heard that urgent care is far less expensive than the ER (you heard right), it can be helpful to know why that is.
Below, you’ll learn why a trip to the emergency room costs so much more than urgent care, as well as a cost comparison of 8 common healthcare services.
Why does the emergency room cost so much?
A visit to urgent care, even if you have to pay out-of-pocket, is still less expensive than going to the ER. But why is it more expensive to go to the ER? Great question. There are several factors that play into the cost of an emergency room visit. Let’s take a look.
- They have to accept all patients — Emergency rooms see all types of injuries and illnesses. They’re often overused, even when the medical need isn’t an emergency. This is because ERs can’t turn patients away if they’re unable to pay. What results is an overcrowded waiting room, meaning they need more staff and more equipment available to treat patients quickly.
- There has to be a full staff on duty — Nurses, doctors, front desk staff, anesthesiologists, you name it. Every possible type of staff member needs to be available at an ER around the clock. They all have to get paid, which means patients have to pay up.
- Expensive diagnostic and surgical equipment raises costs — Just like ERs need a full staff on duty to keep up with patient demand, they also need an array of (very costly) equipment. These healthcare tools can range from a couple thousand to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
- Routine treatments can cost way more than they do elsewhere — A pack of bandages might only cost $6 at a drugstore but you could pay upward of $100 for the same bandages if you go to the ER. This circles back, once again, to the overhead required to keep an ER running.
While urgent care centers do have overhead, you won’t find the same variety of specialists you’d find in a hospital. Urgent care facilities also don’t have the same expensive medical equipment. Don’t let that deter you from going, though. All urgent cares are outfitted with the tools and doctors they need to treat minor, non-life-threatening injuries and illnesses.
8 Common Health Issues and What They Cost at the ER vs Urgent Care
Medica, a health insurance company, found some fascinating data about the cost difference between services at urgent care and the ER. Keep in mind, these are just estimates based on claims data they’ve collected. How much you’ll pay at each type of facility depends on where you live, whether you have insurance, what your insurance covers, and whether the facility you go to is in- or out-of-network. Read more about what determines the cost of your urgent care visit.
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Another Benefit of Going to Urgent Care
Going to urgent care instead of the ER when appropriate can save you a ton of money. It can also save you from spending hours in the waiting room. In some states, time spent waiting to be seen at the ER can be as high as 53 minutes. Once you see a doctor, you could still spend up to 278 minutes (that’s almost 5 hours) in the ER before being sent home.
When you use Solv to make a same-day appointment for urgent care, you could spend an average of 8 minutes waiting to be seen. That’s a fraction of the time you’d spend in the ER waiting room.
When should you go to the ER, instead of urgent care?
While you can save a lot of money (and time) by going to urgent care for minor injuries and illnesses, there are some cases where you should head straight to the emergency room or call 911. Here’s an overview of when to go to the ER and when to go to urgent care.
When to Go to Urgent Care
Urgent care is great for minor, non-life-threatening injuries and illnesses. These include:
- broken bones and sprains
- cases of flu and colds
- sore throats
- ear pain
- high fevers
- minor cuts
When to Go to the ER (Emergency Room)
If you ever think you or someone around you is experiencing a life-threatening medical issue, call 911. Signs you should go to the ER include:
- pain or pressure in your chest
- difficulty breathing
- severe abdominal pain
- altered mental states
- uncontrolled bleeding
- sudden numbness (particularly on one side of the body)
- loss of consciousness
- severe headaches
Save time, book your urgent care appointment online with Solv
Illnesses and injuries happen. When they do, you need care fast. At Solv, we believe that you should be able to get last-minute, quality care without the wait. When you use Solv to make a same-day urgent care appointment, you’ll be seen even faster. Save money, save time, feel better.