Emergency Room Alternatives: What Are Your options?

What do you do? You haven’t found a family doctor yet, and you sprain your ankle. Or it’s 3:00 a.m. and your child is screaming with an ear infection. Or you’re coughing up a lung and your doctor can’t see you until next Thursday. These are the kind of minor emergencies that frequently end up in an Emergency Room.

If you’ve ever been to the E.R. for a minor emergency, you know what a nightmare that can turn into. The main function of an E.R. is to treat life threatening emergencies, and obviously that sprained ankle is going to take second seat to anyone with a major emergency. We’ve all heard the horror stories of people spending countless hours in E.R. waiting rooms.

And then there’s the cost. Recent statistics show that in a given year, 1 out of 7 of us end up visiting an E.R. The national average cost of an E.R. visit is around $400, while the average doctor’s office visit is approximately $60. (Of course, this is New York City – not Arkansas – and you know that our costs are much higher than the national average!) While it is true that your Welfare Fund insurance will cover a great deal of the cost, I’m sure you must understand by now that we all need to work towards reducing health care costs if we are going to avoid the necessity of future benefit cuts or increases to self-pay premiums.

So what do you do? Fortunately, there are some alternatives to going to the E.R. AETNA insurance is accepted at a large number of “convenience care” clinics which treat common illnesses and conditions, including CVS MinuteClinics, and there are “urgent care” facilities that can handle more critical medical needs. There are also a large number of doctors who will see patients after hours, however, unlike walk-in convenience care clinics, you will want to call ahead for an appointment to make sure that a given provider will be able to see you.. For a list of convenience care, urgent care, and after-hours providers, please go to www.Aetna.com, log in or register, select the menu bar titled "I want to....", select "Find a Doctor", scroll down to "Hospitals and Facilities" and select "Urgent Care Centers".

Please note that every medical situation is different, and you will need to determine for yourself whether you should use a clinic, or will need to seek treatment at an Emergency Room.

Welfare Fund Trustee Toby McDonough recently told us about a very good experience he had with an after-hours visit to PM Pediatrics on Long Island. He was not only impressed with the quality of care, but also commented on how quick and convenient the clinic was compared to a trip to the E.R., not to mention the cost savings. This is the kind of consumer choice that will benefit you directly, and indirectly by reducing health care costs that are ultimately absorbed by your Welfare Fund.

The trick, of course, is to make sure you plan ahead, so that if and when you are in need, you already know what your alternatives are. Please look over the enclosed lists, find facilities in your home and work neighborhoods, and put the contact information for the clinics and/or providers in your cell phone so that you have it when you need it. Hopefully you’ll never need it, but you will be glad that it’s there if you ever do.

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