Although health insurance has become more affordable for some in recent years, many Americans need help to afford the high premiums and deductibles associated with most insurance plans. This can cause some to make difficult decisions when they become sick or injured. Fortunately, Urgent Care Centers have been able to fill the gap and provide more affordable care, even without insurance.
Many people require health insurance to get the healthcare they need due to the potentially high cost.
Urgent Care clinics are now widely available and are affordable, even without insurance.
Minor healthcare issues can be managed for as little as $30, depending on your needs.
Types of Urgent Care
Urgent Care clinics are becoming increasingly popular in most cities and towns across the country. Knowing the different types of clinics available and what services they provide is essential when you require health care.
Urgent Care vs. Walk-in Clinics
According to the American College of Emergency Physicians, there are four levels of Urgent Care Clinics. Level I is a stand-alone ER that can handle severe emergencies like chest pain. Level IV clinics are very basic and are only equipped for minor healthcare concerns.
The majority of Urgent Care Clinics are Level III or IV. These clinics can manage most minor health concerns and have on-site lab testing. Some even have on-site imaging.
Retail clinics, such as CVS’s Minute Clinic, are another option for urgent care. These walk-in clinics are associated with another business, such as a pharmacy. Most are classified as Level IV clinics and are best for common, minor health concerns. Most can perform simple testing, like flu, strep, and COVID-19 testing, but do not have blood testing or imaging on site.
A more recent option for Urgent Care is Virtual Healthcare. Virtual Healthcare is popular in remote areas where walk-in clinics are not available and with busy individuals who cannot take time off to visit an in-person clinic. This convenient option is often the most inexpensive as well.
There are some limitations to Virtual Healthcare, however. Illness is evaluated based on the history and description of your symptoms. Basic in-office testing, like rapid strep and flu tests, is not an option. Your treatment is determined based on your symptoms rather than testing and evaluation.
When to visit an Urgent Care clinic
Illness and injury do not follow the typical nine-to-five schedule. They can strike at any time. Urgent Care clinics have longer hours, including evenings and weekends. This allows you to seek care without waiting until your primary care provider’s office is open.
While there are various levels of care available in Urgent Care clinics, it is important to know what is appropriate for Urgent Care and when an Emergency Room visit is needed.
The most common health concerns addressed by Urgent Care clinics are:
- Respiratory illness;
- Urinary tract infections;
- Ear infections;
- Seasonal allergies;
- Sprains and muscle strain;
- Minor back pain;
- Vomiting and diarrhea;
- Minor burns;
- Minor eye injuries.
Most things you would see your primary care provider for can be addressed by an Urgent Care clinic.
When to go to the Emergency Room
More severe issues require an ER visit. Concerns that most Urgent Care clinics cannot manage to include:
- Chest pain;
- Major burns;
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing;
- Sudden severe headache;
- Altered mental status or confusion;
- Severe heart palpitations;
- Sudden weakness or paralysis;
- Major head injuries;
- Vaginal bleeding during pregnancy.
You should call 911 or visit the nearest emergency department if these conditions occur.
How much will it cost?
Seeking medical care when you don’t have health insurance can be scary. Visits to the emergency room can cost thousands of dollars. Many people delay getting the help they need due to the potentially high cost.
Urgent care and retail clinics have helped to fill the gaps in healthcare and allow more people to seek care when they require it, affordably. The cost can vary, but most offices have affordable cash-pay prices for those who are uninsured or under insured.
Depending on your location, Urgent Care Office visits range on average from $125 to $180. This price typically includes basic testing and evaluation of your healthcare concern.
Additional testing or imaging may incur additional costs in some cases. Most Urgent Care clinics are upfront about the cost of these procedures and will provide you with the out-of-pocket price before you agree to the procedure. If you are unsure of what something will cost, it is entirely appropriate to ask.
Virtual healthcare is widely available for urgent concerns and is typically the most affordable. Virtual visits start at only $30 in some cases. It is vital to be sure that the Virtual Healthcare site that you use is accredited. Many primary care clinics and hospitals are now offering virtual care as an option for their established patients.
While many healthcare concerns can be appropriately addressed with a virtual visit alone, some things, like broken bones or burns, require an in-office visit at an in-person clinic. When in doubt, you can call your local urgent care clinic to ask about what they can manage.
Navigating the current healthcare system can be difficult, especially if uninsured. However, affordable health insurance options are available and becoming more common. While an ER visit for something minor like a urinary tract infection can cost $1,000 or more, you can get the same treatment with less wait time for a few hundred dollars or less by visiting an Urgent Care clinic in your area.
When you don’t have health insurance, a minor health concern like an upper respiratory infection can potentially be very costly. Fortunately, Urgent Care clinics are now widely available and provide quality healthcare at a lower cost, even if you are uninsured. You no longer have to delay getting the care you need due to the high price of an emergency room visit.
- American College of Emergency Physicians. Urgent Care Centers.
- American Academy of Urgent Care Medicine. What is Urgent Care Medicine?
- National Urgent Care Center Association. Classification of Urgent Care Centers.
- AJMC. Telemedicine: The Cost-Effective Future of Healthcare.
- Johns Hopkins University. Benefits of Telemedicine.