Emergency Room vs. Urgent Care

Emergency Room vs. Urgent CareDo you know the difference?

Panic has a tendency to accompany sudden illnesses and injuries. When faced with the decision about how to respond to the need for immediate care, particularly outside of the hours when we are able to seek help from primary care providers, we must choose between Emergency Room services and Urgent Care facilities. Each of these are viable options, but each is equipped to meet different demands. Knowing which to choose for care can save lots of time and money.

Emergency Rooms

ERs are fully equipped to handle life-threatening emergencies. They are staffed with doctors and physicians and are capable of handling emergency medical circumstances like:

  • Shortness of Breath
  • Poisoning
  • High Grade Fever (especially in children)
  • Uncontrollable Vomiting
  • Heavy Bleeding
  • Paralysis
  • Severe Pain
  • Deep Wounds
  • Serious Burns
  • Seizures
  • Stroke
  • Heart Attack


Emergency Room visits vary in cost depending upon the kind of treatment needed, but the National Institutes of Health estimates the national average to be approximately $1,200. Other studies show cost averages to be higher, averaging around $2,100. Costs may be covered by a patient’s insurance, depending on whether or not the provider agrees that the reason for the visit is life-threatening. If the carrier deems that the visit was due to non-emergency circumstances, the patient could be required to pay the full total out-of-pocket. Estimated wait times in ERs average nationally at 2 hours and 15 minutes, though the time spent waiting depends completely upon the number of other patients and the severity of their needs during the visit. 

Many patients elect to use ER services due to lack of insurance coverage. Emergency rooms cannot turn away patients due to inability to pay. The effects of this influx of non-emergency patients, however, takes a severe toll on wait times and medical expense. According to Debt.org, Americans could save an estimated $18 billion per year if non-emergency medical situations were handled at Urgent Care facilities.

Urgent Care Centers

Urgent Care facilities are usually staffed with doctors and nurse practitioners and are prepared to handle non-emergency conditions such as:

  • Cold and Flu Symptoms
  • Infections (such as ear or urinary tract)
  • Animal or Insect Bites
  • Sprains and Broken Bones
  • Minor Cuts (including those that may require stitches)
  • Low Grade Fever
  • X-rays and Lab Tests
  • Minor Back and Abdominal Pain


Urgent Care visits are typically covered by patient insurance and usually require a minor co-payment. The cost for these visits averages $100 nationally, according to the American Academy of Urgent Care Medicine, though typically, patients with insurance are only responsible for a small co-payment. The average wait time is 30 minutes, and appointments are typically not required.

For Your Information

Consider the severity of your medical need prior to selecting a service center and you can save lots of time and money. In the event of a life-threatening emergency, always select care from your nearest Emergency Room. If you are unable to travel to your nearest ER, call 911 for emergency medical transportation. If, however, your symptoms are not life-threatening, visiting an Urgent Care facility is likely your best bet. CLICK HERE to review the differences between options.

Tell Me More

For more about how to save on healthcare, or for information about implementing an effective employee benefits program and ensuring ACA, IRS, and USDOL compliance, call your Taylor Insurance Services expert today. Don’t have a Taylor Agent? We’d love to get you connected to the Power of T. Call us today at (229) 247-6411. Our knowledgeable experts are ready to help you get the most out of your employee benefits program and develop strategies that both recruit and retain top-notch talent.

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