Price Difference: Emergency Room vs. Urgent Care vs. Independent ER


Let’s get right to it: Emergency Rooms are EXPENSIVE.

If you’re lucky, you might have a copay of a few hundred dollars. If you are unlucky, one trip to the ER could cost you more than a family of four’s trip to Hawaii. This is because ER visits often come with expensive bills from the facility, the doctor, and the imaging or anesthesia group.

Urgent Care visits are cheaper and are usually subject to an Urgent Care copay or the cost of an office visit (if you have a deductible).

So what is a Healthcare Hustler to do when faced with a medical emergency?

It’s pretty simple. Go to an Emergency Room for a true emergency, and stay in-network. While it is expensive, you’ll have a fully equipped hospital to take good care of you.

Go to an Urgent Care if it’s not have an emergency, but need care ASAP. This could include:

  • Sore throat

  • Ear infection

  • UTI

  • Minor sprain

  • Yeast Infection

But what about those Independent ERs?

These overpriced imposters are popping up all around the country. While they offer some of the services of an ER, they are not attached to a full hospital. This means their scope tends to be more limited than a true ER. Even worse, they often brand themselves as providing urgent care, but they bill as an Emergency Room.

Okay, we get it not all ERs/Urgent Cares are created equal, so how do we know which medical facility is which?

Real ERs are physically attached to real hospitals. You can find accredited hospitals and their ERs here (and of course, make sure they are in-network).

Real urgent cares are not open 24/7, and they can confidently tell you that they bill as an Urgent Care.

Those overpriced imposter ERs are usually freestanding, and oftentimes use marketing phrases such as:

  • 24/7 Emergency Services

  • Complete ER Care

  • Express ER

  • Freestanding ER

If you are suspicious about a facility, don’t be afraid to call and ask if they bill as an “Emergency Room” or “Urgent Care”. If there is any hesitation about their status, GTF out.

  • The most important criteria of all is that you get the care that you need. The Healthcare Hustlers provide the information above as a guide to be used during non-emergency situations. In case of emergency, please call 911 or go to your local Emergency Room (ideally in-network!).

  • Do you already have a bill? Check out this article for tips on what to do with your expensive medical bill.