Regardless of your health plan design – whether it’s a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) or a traditional PPO medical plan – the best way to manage your out-of-pocket expenses when seeking care is to behave like a consumer. When you use your consumer skills, you will be more successful in choosing care that fits both your personal and financial needs.
Below is an illustration of the various medical care delivery models and the typical cost associated with each model, expressed in dollar signs. On the left side of the spectrum are your non-urgent or low level health care needs, and on the right side of the spectrum are your higher-level, life threatening health care needs.
Virtual Visits These are most appropriate for non-urgent or low level health care needs where a hands-on physical examination is not necessary. With a virtual visit, you do not have to waste time driving to and waiting in your doctor’s office, and you save gas money! Appointments are on demand and physicians are able to prescribe medications.
Convenience Care Clinic These are health clinics found in retail outlets such as, CVS, Target or Rite Aid, and typically staffed by a Nurse Practitioner or M.D. While not predominant in California, this type of health clinic is popular in the rest of the country, especially in more rural areas. Access to care is easy, as extended hours are common and an appointment is not required.
Office Visit This is the most popular way to seek care for non-emergency situations that require a hands-on examination. Visits are typically covered with a copayment and require an appointment within the doctor’s normal business hours.
Urgent Care These are more popular in California than Convenience Care Clinics and often associated with medical groups and staffed by M.D.s. These clinics provide a higher level of care for injuries and illnesses that require a hands-on examination, and offer extended office hours. They are typically covered at a higher copayment than an office visit.
Emergency Room Visit the emergency room when immediate, highly skilled care is needed for the alleviation of acute pain, or for life threatening situations. Available 24 hours a day, this is the most expensive health care delivery option.
By better understanding the various delivery models above, you can take charge of your health care and choose the delivery method that best fits your needs. Now you are a consumer!
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