Do you know when you should go to an urgent care center instead of an ER? It can be confusing, but knowing the difference may save you money.

Let’s say this right up front — if you have a life-threatening emergency, your safest option is to go to the nearest hospital emergency room.

But it’s not always that clear. For example, where do you go if you have a fever or a sprained ankle? Your doctor’s office is closed, and you notice there are both urgent care centers and ERs near you to choose from. Where should you go?

Overall when it’s not really an emergency, choosing an ER can cost you more money. This is especially true when it’s a “freestanding” ER that’s not attached to a hospital.

What Are the Differences?

The chart below shows the main differences between the different types of facilities.

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How Do You Know Which One to Choose?

The chart below shows examples of what choice is best for different care needs.

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Avoid Paying More Than You Need To

As a rule, when you use in-network providers for your family’s health care, you usually pay less for care. Search for in-network providers in your area with our Provider Finder® online tool. To access Provider Finder, log in to Blue Access for MembersSM and click on the Find a Doctor or Hospital tab. You can also call the customer service number on your member ID card.