Healthcare spending is a significant problem in the U.S and impacts millions of Americans. Many patients may not fully understand the scope of this problem and how they can look for cost-effective alternatives to care.
Per patient, the average U.S patient may spend upwards of $10,000 a year on healthcare. While most patients have some insurance plan to cover the majority of their costs, many patients are still on the hook for thousands of dollars. Additionally, some patients don’t have an insurance plan and may either accrue medical debt or avoid getting healthcare altogether.
The good news for patients is that there are high-quality medical alternatives that offer affordable healthcare rates: urgent care centers. Many patients may not understand that urgent care centers provide services at a fraction of the cost of other medical facilities. Additionally, urgent care centers work with their patients and provide healthcare at the lowest possible cost.
How much cheaper is the average urgent care center over the emergency room?
In short, the differences in price between urgent care centers (or walk-in clinics) and the emergency room (ER) is significant. Most urgent care centers offer the same services of an ER for a reduced price.
An analysis of medical costs from Debt.org found that the average price of a visit at an urgent care center can range between 10% to 20% of the cost of an ER visit. For example, average cost of sore throat treatment at an ER is $525. The same treatment costs roughly $94 at an urgent care center. Also most urgent care centers accept major insurance carriers, which significantly reduces the cost down to a single copay.
What’s more is that most ER visits are avoidable. Patients can, and should, use urgent care for immediate but non-emergency medical needs. Per Debt.org and the New England Health Institute:
“The New England Health Institute said 56% of emergency room visits were “totally avoidable.” It didn’t say how much of the remaining 44% could have been treated at urgent care centers, but several studies suggest many of these cases could have been handled in urgent care. In fact, the top three reasons for ER visits in 2012 were sprains and strains (6.1 million visits), upper respiratory infections (5.9 million) and superficial cuts (5.8 million).”
The main findings from Debt.org are these: urgent care provides a lot of the same needs as an ER, but at a more affordable rate. A list of the general services provided at your local walk-in clinic or urgent care center includes:
- Injury Treatment
- DOT Physicals
- STD Testing
- Sudden Illness Treatment
- Sport and Camp Physicals
How to create a budget-friendly medical treatment plan with urgent care
Urgent care provides a great low-cost medical solution, but what else can you be doing to manage your healthcare spending?
On top of medical appointments, patients may want to plan out preventive exams, lab tests, and other services in advance to help budget for services. Contact your local medical provider to see what types of services they have. Ask if they provide any of the following:
- Blood pressure screening and blood-glucose testing
- STD testing and blood/lab testing
- Physical exams or wellness screenings
These types of services can help you address any current or developing medical conditions at reasonable costs. Early medical intervention is the key to making sure your medical conditions don’t worsen and become more expensive to treat.
In the event of a sudden medical situation that isn’t a full-blown emergency make sure you visit your local urgent care provider for affordable services!