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Health Care Reform:

Health Insurance & Affordable Care Act

Better Care at Lower Costs - Do I Need to Go to the Emergency Room?

What if a problem happens on a weekend or at night?

If you think you are having a medical emergency, call or other emergency services immediately or go to the ER.

If you don't think the problem is an emergency:

  • Use the "Search" feature to look up your problem on this website, and read the information about when to call a doctor. See if there is home treatment you can try.
  • Call your doctor's office, and see if there is a number to call for after-hours service.
  • Call a nurse line for advice. The nurse can help you decide whether you need to get help now or whether it is safe to wait.
  • Go to a walk-in clinic (if one is open).
  • Go to the ER if you feel the problem cannot wait until your doctor's office or a walk-in clinic is open.

What is a walk-in clinic?

Walk-in clinics are often called "minor emergency," "urgent care," or "immediate care" centers. They deal with all kinds of health problems and are often open in the evenings and on weekends. You do not need an appointment.

These types of clinics can be a great option when:

  • You can't or don't want to wait for an appointment at your doctor's office.
  • You don't need the level of care an ER provides.

Care at a walk-in clinic costs a lot less than care for the same problem at an ER.

If it turns out you are having a true medical emergency, a walk-in clinic will send you to the ER.

Unless you have a walk-in clinic in your neighborhood or already know where one is, it may be hard to find one when you need it. So at your next doctor visit, ask your doctor to recommend one. Check with your health plan to see if it offers better coverage at some clinics than others.

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