The most dangerous type of shock a person can suffer typically involves a sudden drop in blood flow through the body. It can be critical or even fatal.
Then there’s sticker shock.
While the latter is decidedly less life threatening and won’t cause organ failure, it can traumatize your finances.
Someone who goes into the more critical shock needs to be rushed to an emergency room. But anyone who goes to an ER with a strained neck muscle after a strenuous workout is sure to feel a second kind of pain in the neck when the bill comes due.
Welcome to the sometimes confusing world of urgent care and emergency room facilities.
Stories abound of people who went to the ER with a less serious injury or health condition, expecting a low bill for the medical services. Then they suffer sticker shock with a higher-than-expected copay and bill for hundreds of dollars.
Sonyia Graham, HR Benefits Division administrative coordinator, said people should think of the stand-alone ER facilities just as they do a hospital ER.
“It is important to know that if the word emergency is on the building, you will pay the same out-of-pocket cost you would going to the hospital emergency room,” Graham said.
Many people are geared toward thinking of emergency rooms being part of a larger hospital facility. While that is true, there has also been a trend toward construction of separate ER facilities built throughout the Houston metro area. They can be stand-alone buildings, or they can blend into strip centers and commercial developments next to retail stores. But they still perform functions of hospital ERs that handle critical care, life-and-death conditions and injuries.
One of the most important differences is the name of the facility. They are what their name implies and what the sign out front says. But other than the sign out front, urgent care facilities may appear similar to stand-alone ERs. The services they provide and the injuries and conditions they handle are very different.
Urgent care clinics help fill a vital gap with non-life-threatening issues when your regular doctor is not available or you can’t wait for an appointment. Common conditions that can be treated at an urgent care clinic include minor cuts, sprains, burns, rashes, fever, flu symptoms, headaches and chronic low back pain.
However, not all urgent care facilities are the same.
“Just because urgent care is outside your neighborhood does not mean it is in your network,” Graham said. “Call Cigna to verify before you go.”
If you go to an urgent care facility and the provider thinks you need emergency care, they will arrange for your immediate transportation to the ER.
When your medical need is not immediate or urgent, it’s best to visit your primary care provider. It not only less expensive, but your primary care doctor also has access to your medical files and is most familiar with your history.