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Sometimes the choice is clear. If you’re having signs of a heart attack or stroke, it’s best to go to an emergency room (ER). But what if you have a sore throat? Or an upset stomach after eating sushi? The choice may not be so clear.
And that’s the rub: Knowing where to go or who to call can make a big difference in cost and time – even when it’s not an emergency.
If you aren’t having an emergency, knowing where to go for medical care may save you on cost and time. Fortunately, you have good choices for non-emergency care.
Instead of the ER, keep these care options in mind:
Bilingual English- and Spanish-speaking registered nurses are on call to answer your questions or concerns.1
You may be able to visit with a doctor by phone, online video chat or via mobile app for non-emergency medical and behavioral health concerns.2
Talk to the person who knows you and your medical history.
Many grocery stores, pharmacies and “big box” chains have a medical care clinic located inside. These “retail” clinics3:
Your neighborhood urgent care is a good option when a health issue needs immediate attention but isn’t an emergency. An urgent care center:
Be careful to choose an urgent care center and not a standalone ER. If the building has “Emergency” listed on its exterior, it is an ER. It may not be covered by your health plan and can cost you a lot more money.4
Go to the ER if you have life-threatening symptoms.4 Any time you have chest pains or heart problems, trouble breathing, heavy bleeding, broken bones or sudden or severe pain, seek help right away.
Log in to our Provider Finder® tool to find a doctor's office, retail health clinic, urgent care center or hospital ER in your plan's provider network.
Remember, when you visit in-network providers, you may pay less for care. That’s why it’s good to learn about your choices now. It will help you be prepared the next time you need care.
Originally published 4/5/2017; Revised 2019, 2022
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana, a Division of Health Care Service Corporation, a Mutual Legal Reserve Company, an Independent Licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association
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