Health care centers: Know your options

The type of health care facility you go to can determine how long your stay will be and how much you’ll pay—so it makes sense to do a little research. To quickly explore your options and compare costs, sign in to use our Cost Estimator tool.

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Inpatient vs. outpatient care

In general, the care you receive when you have a medical procedure falls into two categories: inpatient and outpatient. The difference depends on how long you must stay at the health care facility. There’s also a difference when it comes to cost: Outpatient care almost always costs less than inpatient care.

Inpatient care

This type of care requires overnight hospitalization. Inpatient care can range from a one-night stay to weeks-long recovery. Examples include complex surgeries, childbirth and serious illness that requires monitoring.

Outpatient care

This type of care doesn’t require overnight hospitalization. You’ll go home after your procedure is over and any anesthesia has worn off. Examples include minor surgeries, colonoscopies, and MRIs or other types of imaging.

Types of health care facilities

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Hospitals provide both inpatient and outpatient care. They have a variety of support departments and resources and are well-equipped to manage emergencies. For example, if complications arise during your procedure at a hospital, you’ll be near an ER and an intensive care unit. Because of this, hospitals are often the best choice for complex or high-risk surgeries.

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Ambulatory surgical centers

Surgery centers are run by doctors or large health care companies and offer outpatient services. The fee for procedures at surgery centers is often less than the fee at hospitals. If you’re scheduling a low-risk procedure, you may want to consider going to a surgery center. Your doctor can still refer you to a hospital for treatment if complications arise during or after your procedure.

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Birthing centers

While many people give birth at a hospital, birthing centers are also an option. They range from hospital-affiliated centers to independent ones with no physician on site. The services available and treatment approach vary, too. Be aware that only certified nurse midwives are covered by your plan and remember to check if your midwife’s birthing center is in-network.

Save money by staying in-network

When you go to health care centers in your network, you’ll save money and avoid surprise bills. Use our Find a Doctor tool to search for facilities in your network. Be sure to sign in so your results are based on your benefits.

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We’re here to help

If you have an upcoming medical procedure and have questions about costs or where to go, give us a call. You can also chat with us online or find answers on our member FAQ.