Winter brings flu, cold, and cough. Which is pretty common. So, when someone catches some sort of flu or cold it makes sense to visit some urgent care center instead of an Emergency room, right?
A simple visit to the Emergency room can cost you about 400$ to 500$ on average irrespective of insurance.
Without insurance, urgent care can be quite an arduous task. You will need to be prepared to deal with the repercussions. Medical checkups whether planned or not can cost a hefty amount of money. Without insurance you are vulnerable, and you must pay 100% of the charges.
In case you do not have health care insurance, you need to adopt a proactive approach towards your medical bills. Nowadays, people even having health insurance are still unable to bear the expenses. Medical bills often lead to indebtedness.
Especially during these hard times of Covid-19 pandemic, it must be our top priority to get healthcare insurance done. It will not only reduce medical expenses but also help us spend that spared money on ourselves and our family.
Urgent care cost without insurance varies. Different doctors present in different hospitals charge differently for a visit. In case of urgent care, the cost is further increased. While urgent care can help you save money and invest it somewhere else.
No problem exists if medical bills are paid in time or within days. But if they are further delayed then the collection agency gets involved which is a bitter pill to swallow.
Whether it is fever or sore throat or some injury, urgent care is the best choice available in terms of affordability as compared to emergency rooms. There is another advantage of using urgent care rooms that the receptionists present there are generally more aware.
How to get affordable urgent care without health insurance?
I did some research and found out that there are many ways in which proper medical checkups can be carried out without health insurance. You need to follow certain steps and you can easily save money as well as time.
Search for Doctors, Urgent care centers, and Hospitals
We know that different doctors charge differently as well as different hospitals have different rates when a patient walks in. So, it is advisable to first call around and check if the services are available at affordable prices or not.
For example, if one urgent care center charges 75$ and the other charges 65$, we can easily save money i.e. 10$. On the other hand, various procedures taking place in a hospital also charge differently so it is worth making the calls before you decide to visit the hospital.
Discounted rates and advance payment
There are many doctor offices which will charge you lower in case you don’t have health insurance, but you need to ask them for a discount. There are certain services available in hospitals that are offered to us at a reduced rate.
If advance payment is made then a further reduction in rate may also occur. For example, if a baby’s delivery is about to proceed and we have paid in advance then a certain discount is given. The option of advance payment also applies to medical tests and surgeries.
However, in case of an emergency, this process is not helpful.
As soon as you get your bill from doctor’s office, you should immediately set up a plan and negotiate with them without further delay. There are certain policies in which certain discounts are given if the bill is paid in cash within time.
In case, you do not have the resources to pay your bill in lump sump quantity there is always an option to negotiate and pay them with breaks. But if this process is prolonged further then the collecting agency gets involved. And it is quite difficult to negotiate terms with “the” agency.
So, sanity should prevail, and priority should be to pay bills in cash at the moment. If not, a possible payment plan should be sorted out.
You can get a discount on medicine too if you ask your doctor to give you free samples. They contain loads of samples which different pharmaceutical industries give them for free. Secondly, you can demand for a generic version of the prescribed medicines.
These generic medicines can be purchased at low rates from the nearby pharmaceutical stores. There is also a prescription assistance program in which drug companies can help you get medicines at a discounted price.
Visit different pharmacies for the prescribed medicines and buy from that particular store that offers it at a minimum price.
Make your saving account for medical expenses
In case you do not qualify for medical insurance then you need to set aside some money in your saving account that would help you when you get ill or in an emergency. You can do it by setting your monthly targets.
If you can save 90 dollars monthly, then at the end of one year you will have 1080 dollars which you can spend on your health care and medical checkups. With no insurance and savings, it would be next to impossible for you to get proper medical attention in an emergency.
It will lead you to complete bankruptcy which is quite disastrous. Recently, there is no penalty for being uninsured but in near future you might be fined if you do not have health insurance. The government of Pakistan has currently issued health cards to in inhabitants.
Get yourself insured
The last thing we should do is to get ourselves properly insured and we also need to set up a health savings account. This insurance will help when you will have to face a serious emergency. Your saving account will help you use the saved money and invest it on yourself.
How much does it cost?
After some digging, I found out 7 step guide which will help us navigate and save the money. There is no doubt that urgent care can save you hundreds of dollars in case you have insurance, but it would be quite difficult to predict about the expenses if we are not insured.
Determination of the level of visit:
At most urgent care clinics, the cost of the visit varies according to the persisting medical condition of the person. More the facilities provided, more will be the cost of it. There is a direct relationship between cost and the level of services.
For example, a simple throat infection can lead to a throat checkup so its fee will also be quite economical while in case of let’s say a tumor you will have to get X-ray, CT-scan, or an MRI.
And these tests require lots of money. These extra procedures raise the expense further. So, when you are about to visit an urgent care facility you need to locate which level you need and decide accordingly. This proactive approach will help you save money.
If you get an infection or sore throat or cough, it falls under basic visits but when we get some sort of sports injury we will have to add extra procedures in it like X-rays which will increase the cost.
The average cost of a level I urgent care costs around 85$ to 300$
After the survey, it was found out that prices for A level I visit vary considerably but the range was between 90$ to 160$. One thing which is pertinent that one should call before visiting the health care facility and set up an appointment date.
A level II visit can cost around 140$ to 440$
The wide range of prices varies in different clinics and hospitals. Not all urgent care centers have all the proper facilities present in them like some might not have X-ray facilities present in them. Similarly, some urgent care centers might have the required facility, but they lack the technical staff or physician.
So, it is important for you to call around and inquire whether the clinic can provide you the service you need, or the facility is not present. You can also inquire about the extra cost associated with medical procedures and tests.
Different rates for different metropolitan cities
If you do not have insurance and you want to visit an urgent care center, the estimated cost may vary depending upon your locality.
It has been surveyed that in big metropolitan cities urgent care services are more expensive as compared to those cities which are not metropolitan.
For example, if you are living in New York then the minimum expenditure for your urgent health care would be 161$ while in the case of San Francisco the highest average price for the level I visit would be around 225$. It has also been seen that within the same locality prices may vary considerably.
How to save money at urgent care centers?
In this age of social media where all the world has turned out to be a global village you can use different websites to check the cost of urgent care in different hospitals and of different doctors.
You can save money if you do not have insurance by paying in cash. It will reduce your expenses. Similarly, you should call ahead of time and negotiate an economical deal.
You can also save money by asking the right questions like whether charges for office visit and lab test are separate? Or you can also go for bundle price. You should be nice and humble while negotiating a deal with representatives at urgent care centers.
Remember they have quite a lot workload and they have to keep the clinic running. So, it is pertinent that you should acknowledge it, appreciate their work and give them positive feedback. And I bet they would be more helpful if you show even an ounce of appreciation.
Emerging virtual visual centers:
If you don’t have health care insurance and you are unable to visit nearby healthcare center, then no need to worry at all because virtual visit services are emerging at a rapid pace. You can communicate with doctor online through video transmission and get your prescription.
The main advantage of using virtual visual center is that it saves a lot of money as well as fuel and time. You can do all your pre planned activities and after you are done with your daily chores you can simply turn on the laptop and visit virtual visual heath care center.
But it has its limitations too like if you have UTI then doctors are unable to prescribe you test online.
Urgent Care VS Emergency Room:
Urgent care centers are generally less expensive as compared to ER. ER visits can cost you a lot of money ranging from 600$ to 3500$ depending upon the emergency.
Irrespective of health insurance still it becomes quite hard to pay money for ER services. It has one another disadvantage that in the ER you get to wait for the doctor because there are various serious cases present in hospitals and you will have to wait for your turn.
There are on average three health care options available to you when you get ill. You can visit your primary health care physician, head to an urgent care center or you can go to the emergency room.
The price tags for the above-mentioned choices vary considerably and you need to think rationally.
The absence of health insurance further adds fuel to fire. Most people choose urgent care centers to cure their non-life-threatening illness because it is very cheap. If you are unable to contact your primary health care physician, then urgent care is the best available option.
These urgent care centers are mostly opened throughout the week and you can easily visit them round the clock. You can make your appointments online in case you are busy and have a limited time slot.
There is also an option of E-visits available in case your condition is not that bad.
Health insurance is a necessity, not a commodity. Especially in these hard times of Covid-19, it should be your top priority to get yourself health insured. It will reduce your medical expenses.
Urgent care centers are quite beneficial because they treat patients impartially. Whether you are health insured or not, still you can visit nearby urgent care center for proper treatment.