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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 Without 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 With No 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.
Urgent Care Prices With Coverage
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.
Free Urgent Care Options
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.
Cheap Urgent Care Alternatives
Many people don’t realize that urgent care centers aren’t your only option when it comes to medical emergencies. Outside of an emergency room, you should also explore retail health clinics or a walk-in doctors office as an alternative to urgent care and emergency rooms.
- Retail Health Clinic - Some bigger pharmacies and retail stores staff medical professionals to help individuals who may be in need of immediate medical treatment. Retail health clinics are best suited for routine care, such as coughs and flu shots.
- Walk-In Doctor’s Office - If you have a walk-in doctor’s office near you, this is also a cheap alternative to urgent care. For starters, you don’t need an appointment, and you don’t even have to be an existing patient with that particular office. Walk-in doctor’s offices are good for simple medical care that requires immediate attention, such as mild asthma or allergic reactions.
Find A Plan With Urgent Care Benefits
If you’re worried about the cost of urgent care without insurance, your best bet is to find a coverage option that includes benefits that keep you protected. High coverage plans may be more affordable than you realize, and can save you money, while simultaneously providing you access to emergency rooms and urgent care clinics at reduced rates.
FirstQuote Health specializes in helping individuals and families find full-coverage health insurance plans. Enter your address to see you can protect yourself today, while saving thousands of dollars in medical expenses each year.