Warning: Not all standalone clinics the same

January 25, 2013 7:51:42 PM PST
If you are in pain but do not need to go to an emergency room, you may be tempted to go to a standalone clinic. But before you do, we have a warning that could stop you from experiencing sticker shock.

Some seeking help sometimes mistake emergency care facilities for urgent care clinics, but it's a mistake that costs thousands of dollars.

Austin Davis is fine today but back in May, a small cut caused big problems.

"Was very nauseous, vomiting, had high fever and a red a swollen spot on my elbow," he said.

Davis felt like he did not need to go to a hospital, so he went to a Memorial Hermann 24 HR Emergency Care instead.

"I don't need an MRI, I don't need anything crazy. I just need somebody to look at the arm and agree that, yes, you need antibiotics, here is a prescription and go," he said.

Davis says he thought he visited a clinic until he got a bill for $1,891.50.

Memorial Hermann told us in a statement that the emergency care facility "...functions the same as the hospital's on-site emergency center and patients are billed the same as coming to a hospital."

By contrast, there's is a clinic operated by Memorial Hermann inside an HEB. It is not open 24 hours and offers a lower level of care at a much lower price.

Davis' mistake is not uncommon.

"We have seen complaints from consumers who have gone into free-standing emergency rooms with relatively minor aliments and then they come to find out later down the road that they are basically charged emergency room prices," said Monica Russo with the Houston Better Business Bureau.

Memorial Hermann did reduce Davis' bill after he complained to the Houston Better Business Bureau.

"It's a good idea to ask the clinic, Is this an emergency room or an urgent care facility? Because normally there is a price difference," Russo said.

Before you are treated at any non-hospital facility, ask if it is an emergency room. If it is, remember costs are much more than you could find at a clinic, but the level of care is also greater.

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