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ER or Clinic? Be a Wise Healthcare Consumer.

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A trip to the ER is not on any of our "to do" lists - but we all seem to end up there at some point, anyway.

Clearly there are trips to the ER that cannot be avoided - and we'll identify a few of those in this blog - but clearly there are also times that the ER shouldn't be your "go to" place.

It's important to distinguish when to go directly to ER, and when an appointment with your provider - even if you have to wait until Monday - is your better option.  Here are a few reasons why:

An ER physician will oftentimes refer you directly to your primary care provider or a specialist.

But you'll also be paying an ER visit charge on top of the cost to see your provider or specialist.

Wait times can be stressful and time-consuming in their own right.

While the wait time for a Greene County Medical Center ER visit will undoubtedly be shorter than one in Des Moines, there can still be one.  ER rooms are designed to take life-threatening emergencies first in all cases.  (In other words, a sprained ankle won't be seen until the heart attack victim is fully cared for.)

The cost difference is substantial.

The average cost for all (including the most critical) ER visits at Greene County Medical CEnter in 2016 was $1,673.  The majority of visits fell below that critical stage and averaged $1,047 a visit.  Either way you look at it, this type of charge far exceeds the average cost of $186 for a typical sick visit with your primary care provider.

Depending on your health insurance, the out-of-pocket ER visit is covered by "co-insurance" after your full deductible is reached.  The "co-insurance" is normally an 80/20 split, with you picking up 20% of the cost after your deductible is met.  A visit to your primary care provider normally does not fall under your deductible and is handled by a "co-pay," which ranges from $15 to $20 per visit.


So, definitely go to ER for:

  • a broken and/or exposed bone
  • an accident involving a deep cut or a dangling digit
  • heart attack symptoms - chest pains, sweating and shortness of breath
  • stroke symptoms - balance or vision issues, coordination difficulties, sudden dizziness or weakness

If the accident or illness requires a 911 call, of course you'll be taken to ER.  And, yes, the ambulance ride is another charge.null

But, perhaps a little in-home tender loving care can get you through the night or weekend if you:

  • sprain or strain a muscle
  • have a common cold
  • suffer from a minor burn, such as a first degree sunburn
  • have common flu-like symptoms

One of the best ways to avoid an ER visit is to pay attention to early signs of an illness and don't wait until it might reach emergency status.  If you wake up feeling sick, try to get to your primary care provider during normal clinic hours.

During Wise Healthcare Consumer Month, consider your options when considering a weekend or late night visit to the ER for non-emergency care.  Save your ER visit for the real life-threatening emergency.

And then keep making these wise healthcare decisions all year long.