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When to Use the Emergency Room (ER)
An emergency means you could die if you don’t get care quickly. Or you could be hurt permanently (disabled). Read below to know when to use—and when not to use—an emergency room (also called ER).
Dangers to Your Life
Here are examples of emergencies. These need quick care:
A hard time breathing
Severe chest pain
Suddenly not able to move or speak
Blacking out (fainting)
Dangers of Permanent Injuries
Here are other emergencies. These also need quick care:
Deep cuts or severe burns
An attack by a person or animal
Broken bones, or sudden severe pain and swelling
When It’s an Emergency
If you have an emergency, follow these steps:
1. Go to the Nearest ER
If you can, go to the hospital ER closest to you right away.
If you cannot get there right away, call 911 or your police emergency number.
2. Call Your Primary Care Doctor
Tell your doctor about the emergency. Call within 24 hours of going to the ER. If you cannot call, have someone call for you. Go to your doctor (not the ER) for any follow-up care.
When It’s NOT an Emergency
If a problem is not an emergency, follow these steps:
1. Call Your Primary Care Doctor
If you don’t know the name of your doctor, call your health plan.
If you cannot call, have someone call for you. Your insurance claim may be denied if you go to the ER when it is not an emergency.
2. Follow Instructions
Your doctor will tell you what you should do.
You may be told to see your doctor right away. You may be told to go to the ER. Or you may be told to go to an urgent care center. Follow your doctor’s advice. Then your health plan will pay for the care you receive.