Over the past year, I’ve read a few blog posts on other blogs about Urgent Care. Urgent Care is like “emergency room”-light. It is for seeking medical treatments that can’t wait for an appointment with your regular doctor, but not life-threatening to require going to the ER. They are somewhat similar to the clinics that are popping up in convenience stores and supermarkets around the country. The major difference would be that clinics are usually staffed only by nurses that cannot prescribe medications.
I had my first experience with Urgent Care yesterday. It seems that, after having taken amoxicillin on numerous occasions over the last two decades, I have developed an allergy to the medication. It started during the drive back home from Vail Saturday night with itchy ears. Then I developed hives on my hands. By morning, I was covered head-to-toe with itchy welts. My mother-in-law is a nurse and she recommended seeing a doctor to get a prescription for a cortical steroid.
I knew that I wouldn’t be able to see a normal doctor on a Sunday. I also knew that sitting in the ER would be a colossal waste of time and money. Especially since our local hospital doesn’t take payment plans. So I decided on Urgent Care. There are actually 5 different Urgent Care facilities in Fort Collins, so I had some choices.
Urgent Care hours have much to be desired
I started my going to the closest facility. I had to hurry, because it was already 1:30 and they closed at 2. I walked in and explained my situation to the nurse at the front desk. She informed me that they had already signed in their last patient for the day and recommended I go to the Emergency Room. Umm, that’s what I’m trying to avoid.
Urgent Care at Miramont
The local Miramont Lifestyle Fitness center has a physical therapy center and an Urgent Care Center. So I tried them. They have recently changed their hours so that they are no longer open on Sunday. In fact, they are open fewer hours during the week than most general practitioners offices! That kind of defeats the purpose, doesn’t it?
3rd times a charm
Finally, the third place was open. It turns out that a regular doctor’s office that operates as an Urgent Care center as well. I went in, was seen almost immediately, and had my prescriptions written within half an hour of walking in the door. This morning, the hives are greatly improved and should be gone entirely in another day or two.
Urgent Care pricing isn’t all that great
Now, I’m not sure how much this center charged, because they are billing the insurance company first. However, since I have a $3000 deductible, I’ll eventually be paying this whole thing out of pocket. But Concentra does post a price list online. At least, they post the discounted prices they charge to those without insurance.
Now, I understand the reasoning behind charging those without insurance less, but it feels pretty unfair that I would have to pay more simply because I have an insurance policy that basically forces me to pay for all of my medical care anyway.
According to the price list, a basic consultation, including lab tests that can be done on-site, range from $120-$160. Actual treatment costs anywhere from $170-260.
$120 for a 15 minute consultation? I was there just long enough to have my vitals taken and given treatment options. Now, I realize they aren’t actually seeing patients every single minute they are open, but that works out to an annual rate of nearly one million dollars per year. Sign me up for that job!
Just like going to the mechanic, one thing that helps a lot when you have a medical problem is being able to provide an educated understanding of the problem. If you have a nurse in the family, talk to them first and see if they can tell you what to tell the doctor.
Have you ever gone to Urgent Care? Do you think they are worth the money?