Have you ever been to an urgent care center? If not, you should know that urgent care can be a convenient, affordable option for medical assistance. Also, many health insurance plans, like short-term health insurance, provide benefits for urgent care visits, making them even more affordable.
What Is Urgent Care?
So, what exactly is urgent care? Urgent care centers are free-standing facilities that can treat patients with pressing, but non-life-threatening conditions. These centers usually have a medical doctor present, and often have labs and x-ray equipment on-site. Therefore, they can often handle minor emergency care that in the past required patients to go to an ER. Some of these centers can even handle minor surgical procedures. There are over 7,000 urgent care centers in the U.S., so they’re widely accessible across the country.
When you get sick out of the blue or need medical assistance for a non-life-threatening emergency, it isn’t always possible to see your doctor. Urgent care creates a solution for people seeking medical attention quickly. Urgent care centers don’t require appointments and are walk-in friendly. However, urgent care facilities usually offer the option to make day-of appointments online and by phone if you’d rather schedule a time that works for you.
When to Go to Urgent Care
Say you woke up feeling sick with congestion, sinus pressure, chills, sore throat, and a headache. You feel like you may have a sinus infection, strep throat, or the flu. You want to get tested for each one to get the appropriate treatment for your condition. What should you do? There several places that you could visit, like:
- Your doctor’s office
- Urgent care centers
- Health clinics in your neighborhood
- An emergency room
You’re feeling really rough and want to be seen by a medical professional today. It’s a Saturday, and your primary care physician isn’t available to see you until next Wednesday. How do you know where to go? Who can treat your illness the most cost-effectively? If you need medical attention sooner than later, you might consider heading to the closest urgent care facility near you. Most urgent care centers can treat:
- Animal or bug bites
- Broken bones, minor (fingers and toes)
- Cold and flu
- Sinus infection
- Sore throat
- Cuts that may need stitches
- Earaches and ear infections
- Eye infection (Pinkeye)
- Rash or other skin irritations
- Sprains and strains
- Urinary tract infection (UTI)
So, you decide to go to urgent care where you’re diagnosed with strep throat and have a fever of 101. You’re prescribed an antibiotic and given a treatment plan to help you feel better as quickly as possible. You currently have a short-term health insurance plan through Vera Health. On your way out of the urgent care center, you’re told that you’re responsible for a $50 access fee plus your share of coinsurance. Then, your short-term health insurance plan benefits will take care of the rest for covered services. After a few days, you’re feeling much better and able to get back to work, seeing your friends, and going to your favorite fitness classes – all thanks to urgent care and your short-term health insurance benefits!
When to Go to Urgent Care vs. ER
If you’re wondering how urgent care varies from emergency room care, there are some key differences to know. Urgent care centers treat common medical ailments like the ones listed above. On the other hand, people typically rush to emergency rooms for life-threatening emergencies. Emergency rooms can treat all of the medical issues listed above, but getting treatment for common ailments can be more affordable at urgent care facilities. Here are some examples of medical issues that could require emergency room care:
- Bleeding that won’t stop
- Broken bones, major
- Chest pain
- Coughing or vomiting blood
- Difficulty breathing, shortness of breath
- Fainting, sudden dizziness or weakness
- Head injury with passing out or confusion
- Poisoning or drug overdose
- Severe burn
- Sudden confusion or disorientation
- Sudden changes in your ability to see, talk or move
- Sudden or severe pain
- Suicidal feelings
- Unusual belly pain or pressure
- Vomiting or diarrhea that won’t stop
Emergency room visits can be very expensive, even with health insurance. For example, studies show that going to the ER for strep throat can cost $531. An urgent care visit for strep throat treatment can be a fraction of the cost at $111. That’s a big difference! So, the next time you need access to medical care quickly, ask yourself if you’re experiencing a life-threatening emergency. If not, maybe head to the closest urgent care center near you to spend much less.
However, keep in mind that it could be more cost-effective to see your doctor or use Telemedicine for conditions that aren’t emergencies. Short-term health insurance through Vera includes benefits for these common health care services plus unexpected medical emergencies.
Urgent Care Cost
The cost of an urgent care visit depends on several factors, like the type of coverage you have. A short-term health insurance plan through Vera waives your deductible for urgent care visits and requires a $50 access fee. This means that you aren’t required to meet your deductible before your urgent care benefits kick in. Any remaining costs will apply to coinsurance, or the amount that you are required to pay for a covered medical service.
So, if you purchase a short-term health plan through Vera with a $1,000 deductible and an 80/20 coinsurance, you can use your urgent care benefits as soon as your coverage begins without worrying about meeting your $1,000 deductible first. Side note: When you purchase short-term health insurance through Vera, your coverage can begin as soon as the following day!*
Without health insurance, urgent care visits are going to cost more. Each center has its own payment policies, but you can expect to pay between $75 and $150 plus any additional treatment and prescription costs. Keep in mind that short-term health insurance plans through Vera include benefits for prescription drugs in some states. When you apply for short-term health insurance, make sure you read and understand the full list of limitations and exclusions in your state.
Is Short-Term Health Insurance a Good Idea?
If you want to save money on your health insurance and don’t want all the benefits included in an Affordable Care Act (ACA) plan, then we think so. Short-term health insurance offers such competitively lower monthly premiums by limiting the conditions that it covers and the benefits it offers. For example, a short-term insurance plan does not cover all essential health benefits, like:
- Pre-existing conditions
- Pregnancy, newborn, and maternity care
- Mental health care
- Substance abuse services
However, a short-term medical plan does provide benefits for:
- Urgent care visits
- Doctor’s office visits
- ER care
- Child immunizations
- Ground ambulance trips
- Inpatient/outpatient hospital care
- Home health care
*Keep in mind that covered services may be subject to waiting periods, visit limitations, deductible, coinsurance, or copays, and/or benefit maximums depending on the plan you purchase.
If you think short-term health insurance could be for you or want to learn more about plan specifics from a Vera Health expert, we’d love to chat with you. Just give us a call at 888-499-1187, or visit us online to apply for short-term health insurance today! Also, did you know that short-term health plans can be kept up to a year with the option to renew your plan two additional times? Get in touch with us to learn more surprising things about short-term health insurance and how you could save money on health care costs, like urgent care, today!
Short Term Medical coverage is not required to comply with federal market requirements for health insurance, principally those contained in the Affordable Care Act. Be sure to check your policy carefully to make sure you are aware of any exclusions or limitations regarding coverage of pre-existing conditions or health benefits (such as hospitalization, emergency service, maternity care, preventive care, prescription drugs, and mental health and substance use disorder services). If this coverage expires or you lose eligibility for this coverage, you might have to wait until an open enrollment period to get other health insurance coverage.