Deeper Look: The Cost of Urgent Care
May 25, 2018
May 25, 2018
The cost of urgent care is a nice middle ground. It’s less than the cost of an emergency room, but more than just going to see your doctor. Why is that? Why are urgent care costs like that? There are a lot of variables and, as a result, a variety of reasons. Let’s examine the costs of urgent care.
Deeper Look: The Cost of Urgent Care
Affordability is incredibly important in the world of healthcare. Because getting treatment can be expensive, many people find themselves worrying about going to the doctor. When it comes to urgent care, though, affordability should never be an issue. The cost of urgent care is highly variable depending on your location, your insurance, and the treatment you require. However, it should never be high enough to keep you away.
So, don’t let the bill give you hospital anxiety. Even if it is higher than you can afford, there are ways to mitigate the costs. Of course, you can never afford to not pay them at all. Medical costs are a necessity, and the longer you put them off the higher they will get. If you are unsure about your urgent care bill, you likely have a lot of questions. These are a few common ones.
How Does My Insurance Affect the Cost of Urgent Care?
When it comes to medical bills, insurance is everything.
Rapid Med accepts most major insurance providers, as do a majority of urgent care centers. It’s important that urgent care centers are able to accept a wide breadth of insurance, as our work is very timely. It is best that a patient knows before arriving at the facility whether or not their insurance is accepted, so as to prevent further problems.
In the interest of this, Rapid Med and most urgent care centers like it do their best to ensure that patients are aware of whether or not their insurance will be accepted before they step in the door. On most urgent care center websites, such as ours, you can find a page with any relevant insurance information. Similarly, you can often obtain this information by calling ahead.
If you are new to an area, this is also good information to have ahead of time. Once you know your insurance plan, look for urgent care centers around you that accept it. This will help you cut down on time between coming down with an illness and receiving treatment for it.
What Happens If I Don’t Have Insurance or It Isn’t Accepted?
If you are uninsured or have gone to an urgent care center that doesn’t accept your insurance, don’t fret. You will have to front more of the cost than you would with insurance, but not much more. In fact, many insurance plans have such a high deductible that the difference is almost negligible. In cases where the costs are high, you might receive discounts or other help with your payment. Rapid Med offers discounts for payment out-of-pocket, and most hospitals have similar programs in play.
How Does My Location Affect the Cost of Urgent Care?
Beyond insurance, your bill will be affected somewhat by your location. Healthcare laws and regulations differ from county to county and state to state, which can skew the costs. If you have lived in one area for a large portion of your life, these costs may be invisible to you. The costs that you’ve experienced in that area feel normal to you, and you likely haven’t deal with hospitals outside of that area.
One of the biggest ways that location can affect the cost of healthcare also has a lot to do with insurance. Location is one of the factors that insurance providers can legally give quotes based on, and informs the decision heavily. For example, a person in a location with a high cost of living might be quoted a higher rate than someone living in a more moderate neighborhood.
Similarly, you might run into insurance issues if you seek medical care outside of your immediate area. Most insurance providers work on a regional or state basis, with only a few exceptions. Because of this, you might have a higher bill if you have to visit a hospital while spending time with family. Luckily, these issues can often be sorted out with your insurance provider.
How Does My Injury or Illness Affect the Cost of Urgent Care?
One injury or illness doesn’t necessarily cost more than another. A person with strep throat should pay the same amount as a person with the common cold if they have the same insurance plan. However, the treatment of the injury can affect the cost significantly. The most obvious example is when pharmaceuticals are required. If you are prescribed medication, you will have to pay for it. If strep throat seems like a more expensive illness than the common cold, this is why.
Of course, medication isn’t the only resource that your injury or illness might consume. If, for example, you need to be x-rayed, then you will have to pay accordingly. Similarly, you will have a higher bill if you require equipment beyond what is normally used. You might need supplies such as bandages, which are more costly than you might think.
Time and Space
Two of the most intensive resources are time and space. If the waiting room is full, it’s because patients are waiting to get a highly valuable opinion in a highly valuable area. The more time that a patient spends getting treatment, the more time and space they are using. This is why it’s often best to get an injury or illness treated ASAP, as symptoms will worsen with time. Thus, they will require more time to correct.
Don’t be overly concerned about using resources, though, especially because you have little control over it. Doctors will not use anything more than they feel they need, and typically their feelings are close to the truth. No one at an urgent care center is going to throw a bottle of pills in the garbage and charge you for it. It would be very illegal if they did. Remember that your bill is always as small is it can be while keeping the hospital afloat.
Why is Urgent Care Less Expensive than an Emergency Room?
If resources make up a huge part of medical bills, then they are a huge part of why urgent care is less expensive than going to the emergency room.
You will likely use more expensive resources getting to an emergency room than you will during your entire stay at an urgent care center. Ambulances aren’t cheap to run and staff, and because of that they aren’t cheap to ride in. Luckily, insurance should cover this in most cases.
However, the resource use doesn’t stop at the door. If you are going to an ER, you are dealing with a much more intense issue than you would be at an urgent care center. Often, ER injuries and illnesses require surgery, long-term care, or some combination of both. These can run up a huge bill in a short amount of time.
Why is Urgent Care More Expensive than My Primary Care Physician?
Whether or not urgent care centers are actually more expensive than seeing a primary care physician is actually up for debate. In fact, the average urgent care trip is a little cheaper, but it’s hard to know if these numbers are exact. Urgent care costs likely feel higher because they tend to be accompanied by worse issues. You likely only see your primary care physician for routine checkups, while you only visit an urgent care center when you’ve come down with the flu, or pink eye. When one doctor is prescribing you a lollipop and the other antibiotics, of course, one will seem more expensive.
For most people with insurance, any difference is negiligible. The out-of-pocket costs for both your primary care physician and urgent care visits should be the same, even if there is a vast difference in the bills.
What Can I Do to Mitigate a High Medical Bill?
If your medical bill is higher than you can afford, the first thing you should do is double check it. While it is rare, mistakes are made. You might be billed for something that you shouldn’t be, in which case it will be removed. When you are beyond that step, you should talk to your insurance provider to see if there is anything they can do to help. Generally, they will be willing to negotiate.
You can also ask for assistance from the hospital themselves. Billing departments are often happy to strike a deal. Remember that paying your bill over time is better than not paying at all. Similarly, you might be able to get a loan from your bank to help with the cost.
This isn’t likely to come up, though. As long as you have insurance, your medical bills should always be manageable. Urgent care centers and other healthcare companies aren’t looking to bleed you dry. Don’t let the cost of urgent care scare you away from getting the care you need.