Finding care

Don't need the ER? How to get minor care without a major bill

Emergency rooms (ERs) are lifelines. They're open 24 hours a day. They're filled with lifesaving equipment — and staffed by doctors and nurses who specialize in emergency care.

In serious or life-threatening situations, they're the place to be.

But having all that expertise in one place comes at a cost. So when it's not an emergency, it's good to know about other options you may have. In some cases, you might save up to $1,800 on care by choosing an alternative to the ER.1

Your first stop — and beyond

When you need routine or minor care, it's a good idea to call your primary care provider (PCP)2 first. Your doctor has easy access to your records, knows the bigger picture of your health and may even offer same-day appointments to meet your needs.

Depending on your health plan and where you live, you might also have access to quick-care options like these:3

  • A convenience care clinic. Get treatment at a nearby walk-in clinic when your doctor isn't available.
  • An urgent care center. Get after-hours care for minor injuries and health conditions.

Is it an emergency?

It can be hard to know sometimes if a situation is a real emergency. So keep this rule of thumb in mind: If there's any chance that someone's injury or illness could cause serious or lasting harm if not treated right away, don't wait. Call 911 or go to the emergency room.

If it's not an emergency — and your doctor isn't available — your nurse line may be able to help you decide where to get medical care. Nurses can even direct you to the nearest doctor, clinic or hospital in your network.

What to do next

Visit Provider Search to find a doctor, hospital or facility and view cost estimates for hundreds of treatments and services.


  1. 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 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 are 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. Depending on your benefit plan, selection of a primary care physician may be required. Be sure to check your plan for specific coverage details.
  3. Check your benefit plan to see what services may be covered.