You can’t totally plan for the unexpected, but that doesn’t mean that everything is out of your hands. Emergency planning sounds like an oxymoron, but there are certain actions you can take ahead of time. Like what?
- Check if your doctor’s office provides after-hours care. If none is offered, find another doctor’s office that does as a back-up.
- Not all emergencies are equal. Some plans offer a 24-hour emergency hotline or nurse helpline. Calling can help you figure out whether you really need to make that trip to the emergency room. Speaking of which…
- Find out what urgent care centers and walk-in clinics are near you and within your plan’s network. An urgent care center can handle most medical emergencies that are not life threatening, like a sprained ankle, stitches for a cut, and more. Plus, you’ll probably have a much shorter wait time than the emergency room (where you could be stuck for up to 24 hours before someone sees you!)
- Know which hospitals in your area are covered within your plan’s network.
- Know what emergency services your plan covers.
- Find out what your plan defines as an emergency. It’s usually something along the lines of “without treatment”: your health or life would be in serious jeopardy; you would suffer impairment or dysfunction of bodily functions, organs, or limbs; or you would suffer disfigurement
Basically, if you’re not sure whether your emergency qualifies as such, then see "not all emergencies are equal", above. You don't want to be left stuck with the bill, which can easily be a few thousand dollars! In other words, think twice before you consider going to the emergency room for a run-of-the-mill cold. Do yourself a favor and find a walk-in clinic on your plan's website!
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