What are my care options?

When you need immediate care, you may have more options than you realize—ones that could save you time and money. So, before you spend hours waiting in the ER or end up with an unexpected bill, consider the alternatives that could save you up to $1,9001.

Primary care provider

Cost varies by plan type

Your primary care provider (PCP) or family doctor is a good place to start. They usually know you best, can easily access your records and may offer same-day appointments.

Good for: cough, fever, pink eye, urinary tract infection, muscle strain or sprain.

Virtual Visits

Less than $50 average cost2

Get care for patients of all ages 24/7. You can talk – by phone3 or video – with a doctor who can diagnose common medical conditions and even prescribe medications4 if needed.

Good for: cold, flu, pinkeye, sinus problems

Convenience care clinic

$95 average cost5

This choice may be ideal for those on the go. Convenience care clinics let you walk in without an appointment, and can offer treatments for many common symptoms.

Good for: skin rash, flu shot, minor injuries, earache

Urgent care center

$180 average cost5

Urgent care centers are often open evenings and weekends and available for immediate treatment of injuries or illnesses that are not life-threatening.

Good for: muscle sprains or strains, back pain, skin infections, broken bones

Emergency room

$2,100 average cost5

For immediate treatment of life-threatening injuries or illnesses and other critical conditions, ERs are open 24/7.

Good for: chest pain, shortness of breath, major burns, severe injuries

Don’t be surprised by an emergency room bill

Freestanding emergency rooms, sometimes called urgency centers, are on the rise. Typically unattached or unaffiliated with a hospital, they treat many of the same conditions as an ER, sometimes at a higher price.

Things to know about freestanding emergency rooms:

  1. They may advertise short wait times, big rooms, and the ability to treat common ailments like colds, flu, and pinkeye. But these conditions can usually be treated with a virtual or urgent care visit for considerably less than a freestanding emergency room.
  2. Many freestanding emergency rooms are not in the network. They may accept your insurance, but may bill at or above an out-of-network ER fee.
  3. Freestanding emergency rooms may not have an ability to admit patients to a hospital and may provide an ambulance transfer if needed.

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  1. Source 2018: Average allowed amounts charged by UnitedHealthcare Network Providers and not tied to a specific condition or treatment. Actual payments may vary depending upon benefit coverage. (Estimated $1,900.00 difference between the average emergency room visit and the average urgent care visit.) The information and estimates provided are for general informational and illustrative purposes only and is not intended to be nor should be construed as medical advice or a substitute for your doctor’s care. You should consult with an appropriate health care professional to determine what may be right for you. In an emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.
  2. The Designated Virtual Visit Provider's reduced rate for a virtual visit is subject to change at any time.
  3. Data rates may apply.
  4. Certain prescriptions may not be available, and other restrictions may apply.
  5. Information about treatment costs are estimates and reflect the average costs of guidance and care delivered through UnitedHealthcare owned and contracted service providers to members of UnitedHealthcare health plans. Costs for specific guidance and treatments may be higher or lower than the costs represented here. Emergency room cost estimates include facility charge and initial physician consultation.


Virtual visits are not an insurance product, health care provider or health plan. Unless otherwise required, benefits are available only when services are delivered through a Designated Virtual Network Provider. Virtual visits and urgent care visits are not intended to address emergency or life-threatening medical conditions and should not be used in those circumstances. Services may not be available at all times or in all locations.

Check your official health plan documents to see what services and providers are covered by your health plan.

Insurance coverage provided by or through UnitedHealthcare Insurance Company or its affiliates. Administrative services provided by United HealthCare Services, Inc. or their affiliates.