Urgent care in New York City: A look at the landscape

Filed Under: Costs, Health plans, Patients

The number of urgent care centers in the United States has grown by leaps and bounds. They are changing the landscape of care around the country, and can be a key option for people who are uninsured or underinsured. We decided to take a look at urgent care centers generally, and those that dot New York City–including a listing of dozens of options in the five boroughs.

New York City has been a little slow to get into the urgent care business. “There just aren’t that many centers in New York City, especially compared to Western New York and Long Island,” said Lou Ellen Horwitz, executive director of the Urgent Care Association of America.

About half of all urgent care centers are physician owned and run, as opposed to corporate. Real estate costs make starting up in the city riskier than elsewhere in the state, Horwitz said. But dwindling numbers of hospitals in the city, and long wait times, have opened up a market.

“Hospitals like St. Vincents are closing down and reopening as urgent care centers,” said Horwitz.

Urgent care centers are broadly defined as clinics that accept patients on a walk-in basis, no appointment needed. They address illnesses that are not life-threatening, such as run-of-the-mill aches, pains and fevers, as well as infections. Patients can also get immunizations, receive occupational health care and get their school physicals.

According to the Urgent Care Association of America, there are about 8,700 such centers nationwide. About 4,000 of them also perform lab tests, take x-rays and can stitch up cuts and lacerations.

Care at such centers runs much cheaper than that in emergency rooms–the average visit costs $156, as

opposed to $414 in an emergency room. As a result, insurance providers now encourage patients to choose such centers when possible. Most in New York City take an array of insurance, and most providers have a set co-pay for such visits.

Though urgent care centers in the city cluster heavily around the Upper East Side of Manhattan, but they can be found in every borough. The scope of services and prices vary.

Recently, the pharmacy chain Duane Reade opened 11 DR Walk-In clinics at stores around the city. Patients stroll in here to address everything from diarrhea to pink-eye. DR Walk-Ins also offer STD tests and prescription refills.

On the other end of the spectrum sits Preferred Health Partners. The Brooklyn-based network of health centers is a network of primary- and specialty-care physicians that also has after-hours urgent care centers in the borough that are open until 10pm on weekdays, 8pm on weekends and holidays. Unlike the Duane Reade centers, Preferred Health Partners seeks to become the go-to health care provider for its patients. Preferred Health takes an array of medical insurance, as well as workers compensation. They also have the facilities to perform x-rays, mammograms and eye exams. Out of pocket, appointments start at $100, which you have to pay that day. You are billed for any additional services, which range from blood work to small procedures.

In between are places like MedRite Urgent Care, which charges $140 out-of-pocket for a visit that includes a physical, blood-work done in house, writing prescriptions. The cost of the prescription itself is separate. An initial visit at Walk In Clinic of NYC runs $98 for initial visit, including basic labs.

Wait times at each vary. Walk-in Clinic of NYC allows patients to schedule an appointment online. Others, like New York Doctors Walk-In Urgent Care, are first come, first serve. Hours, too, differ, though most are open on weekends and into the evening. The clinics do not by and large offer prices up front, so it’s important, as we always say, to ask about the price in advance–and about discounts and coupons. Most will provide more information by phone.