Before the Obamacare era, there were far more uninsured Americans. Even in 2016 there are still millions of people who are either uninsured or underinsured. Yet whether you have health insurance or not, you’re still a human being, and all human beings eventually get sick or injured.
And when that day comes, those without insurance have few options. Not only that, but many people grew frustrated with the ever increasing wait times in most U.S. emergency rooms. Between 2003 and 2009, the mean wait time in most ERs jumped from 46.5 minutes to 58.1 minutes. That might not seem long, but if you’re sitting there with a broken arm, that extra 15 minutes can feel like an eon.
So Is There a Difference Between Emergency Walk In Clinics and Emergency Rooms?
Emergency walk in clinics and urgent care clinics are sometimes used interchangeably, but they aren’t precisely the same thing.
Even if emergency rooms make a patient wait a long time, they can’t usually turn them away altogether. For those without insurance, the ER is the only place many people can go to receive any type of medical care whatsoever. This led to a Catch 22 situation. People who couldn’t afford insurance had to choice but to go to the emergency room for health needs, yet they would get sent home with much more expensive bills.
Originally, emergency walk in clinics were created to give uninsured patients a more affordable venue to receive medical care. So for genuine, life-threatening or serious emergencies, you should immediately visit a local ER or call 911, whether you have insurance or not. They could also provide employment screenings, family health care or immigration physicals.
Yet as urban walk in clinics became more popular, they evolved into the modern day urgent care clinic.
Okay, So What’s the Difference Between Walk in Clinics and Urgent Care?
Walk in health clinics initially offered a more affordable way for the uninsured to receive services like primary care, family care physicians, or anonymous STD testing. Over time, many of these clinics began offering much more comprehensive medical services, things like x-rays, women’s services, and lab work.
That’s why the terms walk in clinic and urgent care are often used as synonyms, although they aren’t always the same thing. Today, the best urgent care clinics don’t just offer emergency walk in care, but also primary care as well. Plus, many health insurance companies have started including urgent care in their networks, making these health clinics a popular choice for the uninsured, the underinsured, and the insured alike.