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How do you know if you should go to an emergency room (ER)? Here’s a little ditty to help you decide: “If it could be the end of me, an ER is where I need to be.”
In other words, if it’s pretty clear that a medical condition is life threatening, then you probably need to go to the nearest emergency room. Some examples of emergency care include having chest pain or other signs of a heart attack or stroke, a deep wound that is bleeding heavily, a severe burn, or a serious head, neck or back injury.
These and other serious conditions should always be treated at the ER. Call 911 for an ambulance or have someone take you to the nearest ER.
Keep in mind there is more than one kind of ER. Here are your options:
Hospital ER – If you know which nearby hospitals are in your health plan’s network, you can ask the ambulance driver to take you there. If not, you'll be taken to the closest ER or one best equipped to take care of your emergency.
Freestanding ER - Not all ERs are located at hospitals. If the word EMERGENCY is part of a facility name, chances are you’re at an ER, even if it isn’t part of a hospital. Freestanding ERs are equipped like an ER and are staffed with ER doctors. They treat many life-threatening or disabling conditions.
Be aware that costs for services at freestanding ERs may be much higher than other options. In fact, the costs can be as much as if you went to the ER at a hospital. Unless the facility is part of a bigger hospital system, it may not be in your health plan’s network. Very few of them contract with insurance providers.
Here are some ways to know if you're at one. Freestanding ERs are:
Remember, if it isn’t an emergency, call your doctor or go to an urgent care center instead.
Life and death situations don’t happen often, but if you ever need an ER, you’ll know how to make the best choice for care. If you have questions about what your BCBSMT health plan covers, call the number on the back of your member ID card.
Originally published 8/12/2015; 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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