When you’re sick and feeling unwell, where do you go? Your family doctor? Urgent care? The emergency room? Or do you just suck it up and hope the pain will go away? Well, for those who are unfamiliar with urgent care and ERs, you might be wondering… what are the differences between the two?

Case #1: Sometime around 6pm in the evening, Miss Lee started to feel severe stomach pain so she was sent to the ER. But by the time she actually got to see a doctor, it was already 12am midnight. During this entire time, only her vitals were taken (her blood pressure and heart rate were measured). At times she was in so much pain that she could barely breathe, and just wanted to punch something. After seeing a doctor, all he did was draw blood, perform a blood test, and give her three shots. He confirmed that she had hyperacidity in her stomach and was sent home at around 3am. The entire process took 9 hours!

Afterwards, Miss Lee received a bill of $21,459!! To break it down, what took up the most fees was the CT scan that was around $10,000. Her situation was a Level 4 emergency, which means that the condition is not considered dangerous, but it requires immediate attention and use of ER resources. The standard fee is about $2,200. With a total of more than 30 charges, it totaled to a little more than $20,000.

If you get sick in the U.S., there are three places you can go—your family doctor or a specialist, urgent care, or the emergency room. The ER is designed to treat patients with life-threatening emergencies and conditions such as chest pain, difficulty breathing, unconsciousness, and nonresponse.

If you call 9-1-1 to call an ambulance, the basic standard means that the police and a fire truck will also be present in case of emergency. An ambulance has an extra charge of an average of $224 – $2,204. For minor symptoms, if you’re unable to make an appointment to see your family doctor or a specialist, you can go to urgent care. Urgent care not only saves time and money, but it’s also more convenient compared to the ER.


Time is Money!

Urgent Care Saves Time

Urgent care does not require you to make an appointment, and you won’t need a referral. It is convenient in the sense where you won’t need to wait as long as you do in the ER, but you still get the same things you would in a doctor’s visit such as examinations, check-ups, and tests. Patients with minor illnesses are treated way faster when they go to urgent care compared to their wait in the ER.

Case #2: Andrea’s son had a high fever even after taking medication, and was shivering all over, so she took him to the ER to get it checked out. It was her first time taking him to the ER and it was 2am in the morning. Naturally, she dialed 9-1-1 and they took him to the ER. Before they even saw a doctor, her son took medication to reduce his fever and was feeling slightly better. Andrea felt a bit more relieved and thought that it was okay to leave and go home.

The ER requires parents to sign a disclaimer that confirms the dismissal of having a follow-up treatment in the ER, and that made her worry, so she stayed at the ER all the way until the morning… they finally met with the doctor and all the doctor did was a routine exam and prescribed a few medications. From beginning to end, this entire process took more than five hours!

Urgent Care Can Help You Save 10x the Money!

Although statistics have shown that the average cost of going to the ER is more than $2,000, overall, being admitted into the ER often costs somewhere around $12,000. Treatment, emergency room expenses, resources, equipment, physician fees, and more! If you have to get scanned, then it’ll automatically jump up to somewhere in the ten thousands!

Case #3: Two years ago, Linda was at a restaurant and suddenly fainted out of nowhere. Her family immediately dialed 9-1-1. Since she was transported by an ambulance, her wait time was not that long, maybe around two hours in total. All the tests that were performed on her such as measuring her blood pressure, drawing blood, getting a urine sample, and getting medical treatment totaled up to around $4,000 – $5,000.

Even with health insurance, copays for an urgent care visit and an ER visit are different. For a Bronze 60 plan, the first three visits to urgent care is $75, the copay for the best Platinum plan is $75, the copay for a Gold plan is $25, and the copay for a Silver 94 plan is only $5! Under company health insurance plans, most copays for an urgent care visit are under $100.

For the ER, those who have the Bronze 60 plan would have to pay $6,300 out-of-pocket. The payment for the ER must be paid in full. The best Platinum plan has a copay of $150, $325 for the Gold plan, and $50 for the Silver 94 plan. Depending on the plan, most copays for the ER under company health insurance plans range from about $100 to $400. Some plans also cover a certain percentage of the ER expense.

Friendly Reminders and Tips

Although the bill is huge, having health insurance can help reduce your out-of-pocket expense. When it comes to health care, there are three things you should note:

  • Don’t risk not having health insurance when seeing a doctor
  • If you are not experiencing a life-threatening emergency, please try not to call an ambulance or go to the emergency room
  • In case of emergencies, note where the closest urgent care center is and keep it handy

If you are unfamiliar with urgent care centers, there is a well-known one known as Allied Pacific IPA. They have four urgent care centers in Southern California, and finding a doctor or a nurse who speaks Chinese will not be an issue! For life-threatening issues, especially with elderly or with children, call 9-1-1 and an ambulance will take the patient to the ER.

Helpful Tips from KCAL Insurance Agency

Download and print a urgent care versus ER symptom checklist and stick it on your refrigerator at home. In many situations, you will receive faster care at urgent care.

Keep your local urgent care information on your phone including the business hours, the address, and phone number. Scan the QR code to save the Allied Pacific IPA’s urgent care center information directly on your phone.