Blue Choice

South Carolina Healthy Connections

Emergency Room Use

Should you go to an emergency room (ER) or an urgent care center? How do you know which is better? Here are some tips to help you make the right decision.

If It's An Emergency, Get Help Right Away

Call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room for medical care. You do not need an approval from us or your primary care provider (PCP) for emergency care. It does not matter if you are inside or outside of our service area. You are covered for emergency services in the United States even if the provider is not part of your network.

What is an emergency? It's a medical condition with such severe signs that it threatens your life or could disable you. You should go immediately, or have someone take you, to the ER when you:

  • May die.
  • Have chest pains.
  • Cannot breathe.
  • Are choking.
  • Have passed out.
  • Are having a seizure.
  • Are sick from taking poison.
  • Are sick from taking too many drugs.
  • Have a broken bone.
  • Are bleeding a lot.
  • Have been attacked.
  • Are about to have a baby.
  • Have a serious injury.
  • Have a severe burn.
  • Have a severe allergic reaction.

If you are not sure what to do, you can call your PCP who is the first place to turn for health questions. There may be times, though, when you need care during times your PCP can't see you. You still have other choices for getting good care.

Call the 24-Hour Nurseline With Your Questions

The toll-free phone number is 1-866-577-9710. The TTY line for members with hearing or speech loss is

If you aren’t sure where to go for care, call the nurse helpline. A nurse will answer the phone 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The nurse can answer questions to help you decide which type of care makes the most sense. Have your BlueChoice HealthPlan Medicaid ID card ready when you call. 

Sometimes, Urgent Care is Faster

An urgent medical condition is not a true emergency but means you need medical care within 24 hours. For health issues that need care right away but aren’t as bad as an emergency, you can go to an urgent care center. Why wait long hours in an ER when an urgent care visit usually takes a lot less time? Plus at an urgent care center, they can usually do X-rays, lab tests and stitches so you can get everything done in one place.

Please call the Customer Care Center (CCC) at 1-866-781-5094 to locate an urgent care center near you or check your provider directory for listings. If you use the live Web directory, they will be listed under Facilities. Please remember that children or adults do not have a copayment with an urgent care visit. 

You can also visit a minor care facility, such as the CVS Minute Clinic. There's probably one near to you. Minute Clinics are often open all the time and require no appointment. There will be a nurse practitioner on staff to:
  • Treat common illnesses
  • Give vaccinations
  • Perform routine screenings
  • Write prescriptions when appropriate

For a location near you, visit or call 866-389-ASAP (2727).