What are my care options and what do they cost?

When you need immediate care, you may have more options than you realize — ones that may save you time — and money, particularly if you get your health insurance through work. So, before you spend hours waiting in the ER or maybe end up with an unexpected bill, consider the alternatives that could save you up to $2,0001.

Primary care provider

$160 average cost2

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

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

24/7 Virtual Visits

Less than $50 average cost3

Get care for patients of all ages 24/7. You can talk – by phone4 or video – with a doctor who can diagnose common medical conditions and even prescribe medications5 if needed.

Good for: cold, flu, pinkeye, sinus problems

Convenience care clinic

$100 average cost2

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 cost2

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

$2,200 average cost2

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

Compare your care options

Our at-a-glace comparison chart shows how choosing care options carefully may help keep costs down.

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.

What 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 2019: 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 $2,000.00 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. 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.
  3. The Designated Virtual Visit Provider’s reduced rate for a 24/7 Virtual Visit is subject to change at any time.
  4. Data rates may apply.
  5. Certain prescriptions may not be available, and other restrictions may apply.


24/7 Virtual Visits phone and video chat with a doctor 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. 24/7 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, or for all members. Check your benefit plan to determine if these services are available.

The UnitedHealthcare® app is available for download for iPhone® or Android®. iPhone is a registered trademark of Apple, Inc. Android is a registered trademark of Google LLC. Apple, App Store and the Apple logo are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries. Google Play and the Google Play logo are registered trademarks of Google Inc.

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.