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Urgent Care/Walk-In Clinics for Tourists in the USA

Posted: 01/26/20233,536 Views

Many visitors medical insurance plans may offer some level of coverage for urgent care/walk-in clinics. However, if you or your family are visiting the United States for the first time, you may not be familiar with what these facilities are, what they can treat, and when you should go to them. They may operate differently than similar clinics in your home country. This post aims to clarify some of the information about urgent care/walk-in clinics for visitors to the USA.

What are Urgent Care/Walk-In Clinics?

These are medical facilities that are dedicated to the timely treatment of non-life-threatening conditions that require attention within 24 hours, yet are not so serious as to warrant a trip to a hospital emergency room.

Some urgent care/walk-in clinics (either term may be used, depending on the facility) can be attached to hospitals. Others may be standalone operations. Still more may be inside common US pharmacy chains like CVS or Walgreens.

What Kinds of Things Can Urgent Care/Walk-in Clinics Treat?

Though it depends upon the exact clinic, most can diagnose and may be able to treat conditions such as:

  • Minor sprains and fractures
  • Cold and flu symptoms 
  • Insect bites and bee stings
  • Strep throat
  • Allergy issues

This list can go on to include countless other medical issues of similar scope and severity. 

When Should I Go to One of These Clinics Instead of the Emergency Room or Doctor?

Emergency rooms are for just that: emergencies. If you think your father is having a heart attack, you go to an emergency room. If your sister has severely cut her hand in the kitchen and is bleeding profusely, go to the emergency room. In any situation that you feel is life-threatening, dial 911, which is the universal emergency telephone number anywhere in the USA.

On the other hand, doctor’s offices are for medical issues where an appointment can be scheduled to have them addressed. For example, if your mother has felt generally unwell with a slight headache for several days, you may want to schedule a doctor’s appointment so she can be examined. 

Urgent care/walk-in clinics are for those “in between” situations. Something that is not an emergency, but also not something where you want to wait several days before a medical professional can offer their diagnosis. 

Is It True That I Don’t Need an Appointment for These Clinics?

In most cases, you do not. However, many will allow you to fill out paperwork online ahead of time so there’s less waiting at the clinic. Some may also offer you the option of receiving a call when they are ready to see the patient within a certain amount of time, so you can wait at your home or accommodation. This can be more comfortable for the ailing person than sitting in a clinic’s waiting area.

How Can I Find an Urgent Care/Walk-In Clinic?

A good place to start would be by looking in the list of providers for your visitors medical insurance policy. However, depending upon where you are and how quickly treatment is needed, and online search can be another option to locate the closest clinic.

How Much Will the Clinic Cost?

This depends entirely on the visitors medical insurance plan you have purchased and the clinic you visit. Some plans may cover up to a certain dollar amount – such as $60 – per visit, and you would be responsible for paying the balance. However, this can differ by plan. Regardless, as these clinics do not provide full-service medical treatment, the bill is usually cheaper than a doctor’s office, and certainly cheaper than an emergency room. 

So, I Can Save Money Going to One of These Clinics Instead of a Doctor or Emergency Room?

Not necessarily. It’s important to remember that the scope of what an urgent care/walk-in clinic can diagnose and treat is limited. And even if they can diagnose and provide temporarily relief for some medical conditions, they may very well refer you to a different doctor or hospital for full treatment. 

For this reason, it is recommended that all visitors to the USA have comprehensive visitors medical insurance that can cover any new medical condition that occurs after the effective date of the policy. 

This way, there will be fewer financial obstacles to receiving the necessary treatment.

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