Having access to a doctor 24/7 is a great way to triage your health issues, and understand if your current condition is urgent or life threatening. Going to the emergency room of your local hospital, visiting an urgent care clinic in a retail shopping mall, and having an office visit with your primary care physician are three different experiences for three very different levels of need.
Understand Urgent Care
If you feel the need for urgent care, or if your doctor tells you to seek help at an urgent care clinic there are a few things you should know.
- If you have insurance, most urgent care clinics will make efforts to collect their fees from your insurance company, but they typically have no relationship with them. They are considered “out of network” which means you pay a higher price for services compared to providers that are in your insurance network. Payment for the entire bill ultimately belongs to you.
- You will be asked to sign a disclosure statement agreeing to their fees and charges. They are very secretive about these disclosure statements, meaning you cannot find them on their website before your visit. Typically you will only be given a copy of your signed disclosure statement if you demand it.
- Facility Fees, which is a charge to pay for your use of their facility, will be stated in the disclosure statement. One urgent care facility we reviewed states that the facility fee will range between $500 – $100,000 and can’t be estimated ahead of time. Know that walking in the door costs a minimum of $500.
- Observation Fees, are usually charged by the hour to observe your medical treatment. One urgent care facility we reviewed states that the observation fee will range between $1,000 – $100,000 and can’t be estimated ahead of time. This time is billable in one hour increments, so if you are observed for 10 minutes you will get billed for one hour minimum.
Those fees don’t include any of the services that you walked in the door to get, such as a consultation with a doctor, diagnostic tests, scans, x-rays, or medications. Prices for those are typically not posted anywhere to review before you agree to them.
Given the high costs to simply be seen at an urgent care facility, it would be worthwhile to use a telemedicine consultation with a doctor to triage your symptoms and decide upon an appropriate level of care. It might just save you a significant charge on your credit card from your local urgent care facility. If you are having a health emergency, and live too far away from the emergency room of a hospital, this new breed of retail urgent care clinics can be a great way to get the care you need in a hurry.