Consumer Alert: Out-of-Pocket costs of urgent care vary — here’s how to estimate your bill

Consumer Alert: Pricing your urgent care

The News10NBC Team details breaking News, Traffic and Weather.

This Consumer Alert is about finding urgent care for the best price. Monday, I provided urgent care options for Excellus members after the break-up with WellNow.

For this report, I researched how much each urgent care charges so you can know before you go.

A new federal law went into effect on Jan. 1, 2001, that requires hospitals to publicly post pricing. But as I reported last week, a new study found that only about a quarter of New York hospitals are compliant and post the prices for all procedures as required by law.

Fortunately, it appears that Rochester’s two largest hospitals, Strong and Rochester General, are compliant.  And the hospital systems that each leads control most of the urgent care facilities in our area.  But the law does not require price transparency for urgent care facilities, and I found even when the price is posted, it’s tough to figure out how much you’ll actually have to pay.

If WellNow takes your insurance, the price you pay depends on the level of care you need and the price that WellNow has negotiated with your insurer. If you’re uninsured, an office visit is $165, but I had to call to get the price. I could find no price listing or price estimator tool on the website.

But I found that Cornerstone Urgent Care on Chili Avenue clearly states on its website that it charges $125 for an office visit if you’re uninsured.  Sutures or x-rays will be more.

Most of the urgent care centers in our area are controlled by one of our two big hospital systems, URMC or Rochester Regional Health. URMC has a price estimator tool.

It’s a bit confusing, so follow these steps.

  • First click the yellow rectangle that reads “Price Estimator Tool.”
  • The next page asks, “Where do you want to have your procedure done?” It lists all the URMC hospitals, but NOT the urgent care facilities.  Click on Strong Hospital.
  • Click the box indicating you’re not a robot, then click “Accept and Continue.”
  • The next page asks, What service would you like? Type Urgent Care in the search box.
  • You’ll then be taken to page that lists Urgent Care Outpatient Visit levels 1-5.

Here’s the problem. There’s no easy way for a patient to determine the level of care your injury or illness dictates.  Level 1 is the least care and level 5 is the most.  But a spokesman for URMC told me that level 3 is coded most often.  After clicking on your desired level you can type in your insurance and the system will provide an estimate of your out-of-pocket costs based on your insurer’s negotiated fee agreements with URMC.

Rochester General’s price estimator tool does not include its urgent care facilities yet, but the senior vice-president in charge of that site told me it will be up soon.  Using these tools before you go might help you avoid a surprise fee when you arrive.  Most urgent care facilities require you to pay up front.