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Urgent Care vs. Doctor Visit Costs Without Insurance & When to Go to Each

Alyssa Corso23 Sep 2021

Urgent care facilities and primary care physicians (PCPs) treat similar health conditions. If you are managing a chronic condition and can get an appointment with a primary care physician, that may be a good option for you. If you need care after hours, on the weekends, or cannot get an appointment with a doctor, you can seek care at urgent care facilities as well. 

The cost of seeking care at urgent care and a doctor’s office will vary depending on your insurance. A membership with Mira can help you get treated at urgent care facilities for a copay of $99. Members do not need to meet a deductible and can start using Mira benefits immediately, so sign up today.

Urgent Care vs. Doctor Care Visit Cost 

In general, the average cost of urgent care without insurance ranges from $80 to $280 for a simple visit and $140 to $440 for a more advanced visit. The average cost for a doctor’s visit ranges between $300 and $600 without insurance. However, this does not mean that urgent care will always be the cheaper option for seeking care. 

Factors That Influence Visit Cost

The amount you pay for urgent care or doctor’s visit will vary and depends on several factors. Below are some factors that may determine your urgent care vs. doctor care visit cost. 

  1. Insurance status: if you are insured, it is important to see if your PCP or urgent care accepts your insurance and how much your copay would be at each location. If you are uninsured, you should call your PCP and urgent care to see how much they charge for a visit fee and the cost of the additional service you will need. With a Mira membership, you can get access to urgent care visits for a copay of $99.
  2. Need for additional tests: if the cause of your symptoms is not clear, you may need to get additional diagnostic tests, which can increase the price you will pay at your PCP or urgent care. It is important to see if your PCP and urgent care do lab testing in-house or use an outside laboratory. If the facility uses an outside laboratory, you can get charged directly from that lab.
  3. Treatment: if you require treatment, such as stitches or prescription medication, you can also be charged for these services. If you believe you may need treatment for your medical condition, you can call in advance and get a price estimate.
  4. Location: the cost of urgent care and doctor visits varies greatly by city and state. If you are traveling away from your home state, you should confirm that your insurance is accepted wherever you decide to seek care.

In addition, the cost of going to urgent care can be significantly less than seeking care at a hospital. If you need medical attention for a condition that is not an emergency, going to urgent care may be a less expensive option than an emergency room. 

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Urgent Care vs. Doctor Visit Cost Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What conditions do urgent care and primary care physicians treat? 

Urgent care facilities and primary care providers treat a wide range of conditions. Some of these conditions include, but are not limited to, coughs, fevers, hypertension, infections, cold or flu symptoms, and sexually transmitted diseases. Both doctor’s offices and urgent care facilities can also help create preventative medicine plans to help avoid developing a disease. 

In addition, most urgent care facilities and doctor's offices can do lab work, x-rays, give vaccinations and write prescriptions. Depending on your medical condition, you can be referred to a specialist from a PCP or urgent care facility. 

When should I visit urgent care or primary care? 

If you have a primary care provider or manage a chronic health condition, it is usually better to go to your doctor over urgent care. Since your doctor has a holistic view of your medical history, they may be able to make diagnoses, refer you to a specialist, or order additional tests more easily. 

However, if you need to get a medical condition addressed on the weekends, after hours, or cannot get an appointment with your PCP, visiting an urgent care can be a great option as well. Urgent care facilities tend to have later hours and are open on the weekends, while many doctor’s offices are not. 

While the doctor you see at an urgent care will not know your medical history, they can still treat you for many of the same conditions as a PCP. If you are experiencing a true emergency or life-threatening condition, it is best to go to the emergency room rather than your doctor or urgent care. 

How do wait times compare at urgent care and primary care? 

Urgent care centers can see walk-in patients within 15-45 minutes; however, wait times may be longer since this year since many facilities are conducting COVID-19 testing. If you are going to urgent care such as CityMD for a non-COVID-related issue, make sure to notify the front desk, as wait times may be shorter. 

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While the average wait time at a doctor’s office is only 18 minutes, primary care physicians typically only see patients by appointment. It takes most patients two weeks to get an appointment with a primary care physician; therefore, urgent care may be a better fit for you if you have a more urgent medical need and cannot wait for an appointment. 

Who will I be treated by at urgent care vs. at the doctor's office?

Several medical professionals may work at urgent care or a doctor’s office, including physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, nurses, X-ray technicians, and medical assistants. 

You will likely be taken in by a medical assistant or nurse at both urgent care facilities and doctor's offices. If you make an appointment at a doctor’s office, you will be seen by the doctor you made an appointment with. A doctor can also see you at urgent care facilities, but a nurse practitioner or physician assistant may treat you if you have a minor condition. 

Avoiding Surprise Fees at Urgent Care and Doctor’s Office

Understanding what might appear on your bill and advocating for yourself during the billing process is essential to saving money at urgent care and doctor’s office. Outlined below are several questions you can ask the team at the urgent care clinic or the doctor’s office that might help you save money.

  • How much is the total out-of-pocket cost?
  • How much are the services I’m receiving today?
  • How much is the treatment I’m receiving?
  • Are there administrative fees or fees for seeing a provider?
  • Is one type of medicine cheaper than another?
  • Is one type of diagnostic test cheaper than another?
  • What are my alternatives?

Note: this article is not meant to serve as a replacement for seeking medical care. If you are experiencing an emergency or life-threatening illness, you should always call 911 or go to your closest emergency room. 

Bottom Line 

Urgent care and doctor’s offices treat similar conditions and can be a great option if seeking preventative care, lab tests, vaccinations, or feeling sick. Urgent care facilities may be a better option if you need care after hours or on the weekend, while primary care may be better if you manage a chronic condition. The price you pay at each facility will vary depending on your insurance status, conditions being treated, tests, and location. 

For only $45 per month, Mira members get access to discounted urgent care visits, prescriptions, and lab tests. Urgent care visits have a copay of only $99, and you can start seeking care as soon as you sign up.