Urgent care vs. ER

Get the care you need now — for less

When you need care fast, the emergency room (ER) may seem like your only option. But for many situations, urgent care clinics may treat the same conditions — at up to $1,800 less than the ER.1

Compare how urgent care can deliver treatment for less money.

Emergency room

For immediate treatment of life threatening injuries or illnesses and other critical conditions.

Cost: $2,000 per average visit1

Hours: 24/7

Wait Time: 2 hours on average2

Care Providers: Physicians and care teams

Urgent care

For immediate treatment for non-life-threatening injuries or illnesses.

Cost: $170 per average visit

Hours: 60-80 hours per week

Wait Time: 30 minutes or less on average

Care Providers: Physicians and care teams

Is urgent care right for me?

Urgent care clinics can treat a wide variety of symptoms, including:

  • Low back pain
  • Painful urination
  • Stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation
  • Minor cuts and puncture wounds
    (head, hands, fingers)
  • Headache and migraines
  • Skin rash
  • Muscle pain or strain in the low back, knee, ankle, foot, wrist, shoulder or neck
  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding
  • Nose bleeds

For minor health care needs, see a doctor online now.

If your condition isn't urgent, you can connect with a doctor anytime day or night.


  1. 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.
  2. National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey 2010-2011. Available at www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6319a8.htm. ^UCAOA 2015 Benchmarking Survey. The full survey which addresses other industry topics including differences in urgent care centers by region, characteristics of urgent care centers based on types of ownership and various revenue correlations, is available for purchase by both members and non-members – including media – on the UCA website here.


Virtual Visits are not an insurance product, health care provider or a health plan. Unless otherwise required, benefits are available only when services are delivered through a Designated Virtual Network Provider. Virtual 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. Suggested care options are not medical advice. If you believe you are having an emergency, go to the nearest emergency room or call 911.

1.1.Source 2017: 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 $1,800.00 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.