Should You Head to the ER or Urgent Care for Your Minor Ailment?

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — When you are faced with a minor ailment, such as a sprained ankle from a weekend basketball game or a minor cut from attempting to make your first gourmet meal, heading to the an urgent care facility is your best bet and will save you hundreds of dollars.

Unless you are faced with a life-threatening illness such as sudden severe pain, problems breathing or a more serious injury such as a broken bone, going to the ER does not ensure you will receive better treatment. The only guarantee you will receive is waiting for several hours, because more critical patients will receive treatment first.

Depending on your health insurance plan, your co-pay and co-insurance, costs are often even five times as expensive in an ER compared to urgent care facilities, which are cropping up in more neighborhoods. In Springfield, Ill., the average cost for non-emergent care in an ER was $1,563, compared with $277 outside of the ER, said Brian Swierczek, a senior director for Health Care Service Corporation, the Chicago-based operator of Blue Cross Blue Shield in five states, including Illinois and Texas.

When you are ill and go see a doctor, you might expect to make a small co-pay of $15 or $20. Co-pays can come in different sizes, especially if you see a physician out of your network. Expect to pay $50 or more for an ER copay, said Nate Purpura, vice president of consumer affairs at eHealth.com, an online health insurance exchange based in Mountain View, Calif. You could be hit with other additional fees such as the ride to the ER, and some health insurance plans may automatically charge you $100 or $200 for an ambulance ride.

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