Urgent Care With No Health Insurance - Getting The Help You Need
Edward Neeman | Published: August 02, 2018
Living with no health insurance is a common and costly occurrence for many Americans. It often means forgoing important preventative care exams in exchange for costly visits to the emergency room. If you have found yourself in this situation, you may wonder about urgent care clinics. These separate, usually private, clinics are a great alternative to the ER if your condition is not life-threatening. These clinics are not attached to or affiliated with a hospital, anything serious or that may require long-term care is best dealt with at the emergency room.
Urgent care centers do not require an appointment, but unlike hospital emergency rooms they are not always open 24 hours a day. Most such centers are also equipped with less advanced equipment. Anything that feels life threatening will be better served at the ER, while mild conditions, things like bug bites, cold symptoms, and broken bones, just as a few examples, can be treated in these smaller clinics. So, what about someone who needs urgent care without health insurance?
Can You Go To Urgent Care With No Health Insurance?
The easy answer is yes. Patients with no health insurance are accepted at these types of clinics, but patients will often need to provide payment at the time of service. The great thing about visiting urgent care without health insurance is that these facilities are almost always cheaper than similar services at an emergency room.
Can Urgent Care Ever Turn You Away?
Yes, these mostly private centers can turn away patients for inability to pay. This is the key financial difference between these clinics and an ER, and something to consider when seeking care. Hospital emergency rooms are bound by a law known as EMTALA, the Emergency Medical Treatment & Labor Act.
The law mandates that any hospital participating in Medicare, which is almost every hospital, must accept any patient in an emergency room, regardless of ability to pay, whether they have insurance or no health insurance at all.
EMTALA does not apply to urgent care centers. While such clinics are not required to see all patients, many will work with patients, with or without insurance, regarding payment. They are within their legal rights, however, to turn away patients who are unable to pay up front.
Wherever you choose to seek care, you will be billed afterward, and the ER bill is likely to be significantly higher, but the ER is required to treat you whether you can pay that bill or not.
The Cost Of Urgent Care Without Health Insurance
You are probably wondering what the cost is for this care with no health insurance. It varies from clinic to clinic, but the estimated cost of the average urgent visit is between $75 and $125, and rarely surpasses $150. Just for comparison’s sake, treatment for bronchitis runs about $130 at most urgent care centers but costs almost $600 in the average ER.
The figures are similar for sinusitis and a urinary tract infection. For almost every condition, these clinics are cheaper than the emergency room.
How Much You’ll Pay If You’re Covered
Your insurance may cover urgent care with the only copay, and this is often listed on your insurance card. Copays may fall anywhere from $30 to $100 for your visit. If your coverage does not include copays, then often you will pay the same as an uninsured patient, until your deductible has been met.
Getting Free Urgent Care
Free urgent care is possible at some urgent clinics. Many cities and municipalities have community clinics or health departments that offer free urgent care. There are also a number of private clinics that offer free urgent care on a limited basis to uninsured patients and those with a proven financial need. If not free, they may offer their services on a sliding scale based on income. It is an option worth looking into.