If you’re having a true emergency, there is no better alternative than the emergency room. But what if you’re experiencing something that isn’t a life-threatening emergency, but needs to be taken care of right away. Luckily, there are some alternatives to the emergency room that can save you time and, quite often, money.
There is no doubt that going to your primary care doctor is really the best option in non-life threatening emergencies. They know your history, medications and any underlying conditions that you may have. They are also able to give you more informed solutions to your medical problems. If your problem occurs while your doctor’s office is closed, you should still call in as some offices have a doctor on call.
Call Your Insurance Company
Many people are not aware that most health insurance companies offer nurse hotlines that can help you figure out the best method of care. The nurse hotlines are staffed with qualified nurses that will ask you a series of questions to help them determine the level of immediate care that is required. If your situation does require you to see someone immediately but doesn’t require you going to the emergency room, they can help you locate a clinic or doctor’s office that is open and takes your insurance.
Retail Health Clinic
Retail healthcare clinics are becoming more and more popular as they can be a good alternative to expensive emergency care. CVS offers the Minute Clinic, Rite Aid has partnered with various clinics to offer services in store (for example, in Sacramento, Rite Aid has partnered with Sutter Express Care Clinics) and numerous other private clinics are popping up. Even Kaiser Permanente has teamed up with Target stores and has opened 4 clinics in Southern California (although no immediate plans to expand up into Sacramento, but success of the clinics will most likely lead to expansion).
The reason these clinics are becoming so popular is because they offer a wide range of services that help keep people out of emergency rooms, usually work with most insurance plans and offer standardized services at lower costs. Most of these clinics are staffed with registered nurses and physician assistants and provide such services as strep throat, flu-like symptoms, earaches and infections, bladder and urinary tract infections, sinuses and respiratory infections including asthma. Check with your local clinic to see what services they provide and check with your health insurance company to see what services they cover.
Urgent Care Facilities
Urgent care centers offer non life-threatening medical care on a no appointment basis. Most urgent care facilities have extended hours and contracts with all of the major insurance companies offered in the area (although you should always contact your insurance company first to make sure that services will be covered). If your insurance is accepted, many plans offer co-pays around $50-100 to go to Urgent Care centers as compared to the possibility of thousands at emergency rooms.
Blue Cross / Blue Shield has a very useful printout for deciding where to go when you have an urgent medical need.
If you find yourself in need of immediate medical services and your doctor’s office is closed, consider some of these options before you head on over to the emergency room. If you’re not sure if you’ve got the right health insurance plan for you and your loved ones, fill out our online health insurance quote and we can get you set up with the proper plan (provided you live in Sacramento or anywhere else in California).