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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 department (also called ED).
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)
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 in a joint
If you have an emergency, follow these steps:
If you can, go to the hospital ED closest to you right away.
If you cannot get there right away, call 911 or your police emergency number.
Tell your doctor about the emergency. Call within 24 hours of going to the ED.
If you cannot call, have someone call for you.
Go to your doctor (not the ED) for any follow-up care.
If a problem is not an emergency, follow these steps:
If you don’t know the name of your doctor, call your health plan.
Your insurance claim may be denied if you go to the ED when it is not an emergency.
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 ED. 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.
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