None of us want to spend our time worrying about medical emergencies. However, for older adults especially, it’s important to have a plan of action in place. With one, you’ll be able to respond more effectively in the event that an emergency does arise.

One of the most important aspects of your plan will be where you plan on going in an emergency. This choice typically comes down to either the emergency room or urgent care. However, it can be somewhat difficult to identify which one is the best fit for your needs.

If you’re unsure about the difference between the emergency room and urgent care, you’ve come to the right place. Continue reading to get a closer look at these medical facilities and to learn when you should choose each one.

Understanding Urgent Care

Urgent care centers are built to handle non-life-threatening situations. They’re a good alternative to emergency rooms, which can be expensive and have long wait times. Many urgent care centers also have doctors and nurses on hand who can perform x-rays and lab tests.

Urgent care isn’t a replacement for your normal doctor. However, physicians in an urgent care center often end up treating illnesses and injuries that family doctors do. For example, you could visit an urgent care center for help with:

  • Earaches and infections
  • Headaches
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Cough, cold, and sore throat
  • Fever and flu symptoms
  • Minor cuts, sprains, and burns
  • Animal bites
  • Mild asthma

Understanding Emergency Rooms

Emergency rooms are what you should use when you have a medical emergency that is truly life-threatening. These facilities are equipped to handle surgery, trauma, x-rays, and virtually everything else that’s needed to save a patient’s life.

If your medical issue is a serious one, then you should err on the side of visiting an emergency room just to be safe. Still, it can sometimes be challenging to understand what rises to the level of a medical emergency. You should go to an emergency room if you start experiencing one or more of these symptoms:

  • Severe allergic reactions
  • Heart attack or chest pain
  • Head injury or major trauma
  • Blurry vision or complete loss of vision
  • Seizure
  • Sudden disorientation and difficulty speaking
  • Overdose
  • Uncontrolled bleeding
  • Severe cuts or burns

Medicare Coverage for Urgent Care and Emergency Rooms

As you create your medical emergency preparedness plan, it’s also important to identify how you’re going to pay for the services you may need. Doing this in advance can save you a ton of time and confusion in the event that something does happen.

Medicare Part B will cover most of the costs of urgently needed care that isn’t a medical emergency. You should just have to pay 20% of the Medicare-approved amount for your visit. This number could go up or down based on the specific Medicare plan you have.

Medicare coverage for emergency room visits is very similar. If you have an injury or sudden illness that requires emergency medical attention, then your insurance should cover most of the cost.

However, you will be responsible for a copayment for each emergency department that you visit and each hospital service that you use. You will also have to pay 20% of the Medicare-approved amount for your doctor’s services.

Want to learn more about your Medicare coverage for visits to urgent care or the emergency room? If so, consider contacting one of Time for 65’s partnered licensed agents. You can reach one by filling out this form or giving us a call. We look forward to hearing from you.