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Managing Health Care Costs

ER Versus Urgent Care

It is important for you to understand your options before you need care, so you can ensure you're getting the right care at the right time.

Please Note: If you are experiencing a medical emergency, please call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room immediately.

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ER vs. Urgent Care

Urgent care center costs are significantly less than emergency room visits. We've compiled cost comparisons for treatment of some of the most common ailments at an emergency room vs an urgent care center.

Description
Emergency
Room
Urgent Care
Center
Potential
Savings
Acute Bronchitis $814 $122 85%
Acute Pharyngitis (Sore Throat) $620 $93 85%
Attention to Dressing / Removal of Sutures $345 $76 78%
Low Back Pain $751 $113 85%
Otitis Media (Middle Ear Infection) $498 $100 80%
This information represents a sample of conditions commonly treated in both settings and includes all members with these diagnoses, but does not take into account the severity of their illness. Costs are based on average CareFirst member's costs in 2012 and may not represent your actual cost of care for the same services.

The information in the chart below can also be useful in helping you decide where and when to go for care.

Symptom
Emergency Room
Sudden or unexplained loss of consciousness x
Signs of a heart attack, such as sudden/severe chest pain or pressure x
Sign of stroke, such as numbness of the face, arm or leg on one side of the body; difficulty talking; sudden loss of vision x
Sudden shortness of breath x
High fever with stiff neck, mental confusion and/or difficulty breathing x
Coughing up or vomiting blood x
Cut or wound that won't stop bleeding x
Possible broken bones x
Poisoning x
Stab wounds x
Sudden, severe abdominal pain x
Suicidal feelings x
Partial or total amputation of a limb x


When to Use Urgent Care vs Doctors' Office

The information below also may be used as a guide to help you decide where and when to go for care.

If you are experiencing any of the items below, and are not having a medical emergency, contact your family doctor for advice. Many doctors offer phone access 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Even if you're only able to reach the provider on-call, they may be able to see you in the office of direct you to an urgent care facility.

Symptom
Doctors' office setting
Urgent care Center
Animal bites x
Stitches x
Back pain x x
Mild asthma x x
Minor headache x x
Sprain, strain x x
Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea x x
Bumps, cuts, scrapes x x
Burning with urination x x
Cough, sore throat x x
Ear or sinus pain x x
Eye swelling, irritation, redness or pain x x
Minor allergic reactions x x
Rash, minor bumps x x
Vaccination x x


You can also download and print a copy to keep on hand. Download the Where and When to Go PDF.

How to Find an Urgent Care Near You

For a complete listing of Urgent Care Centers, visit our Provider Directory, select your health plan and click continue. Next you will need to enter a zip code or city/state and select Urgent Care under Search by Type of Provider or Facility, and click continue.

You also can download our free mobile app, which allows you to find a doctor or urgent care center anytime of the day or night, from wherever you are. Visit our mobile app page for more details on how this app can help you.

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