Health Insurers Betting on Urgent Care Centers

Margaret Dick Tocknell, September 28, 2012

As insurers seek ways to control the price point at the entry level of the healthcare system,  health plans such as Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina and Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield in Pittsburgh are turning to developing urgent care center networks.

This month, for example, the NC Blues announced that it is investing an undisclosed amount in FastMed Urgent Care, a North Carolina-based company with 29 locations throughout the state. Last year, Highmark Inc. bought into the MedExpress Urgent Care chain. And Highmark rival UPMC offers eight "full-service, walk-in" clinics for patients seeking immediate care.

Slideshow: How to Open an Urgent Care Center
Urgent care delivery models can be attractive options for healthcare leaders weighing new business strategies. These guidelines are excerpted from the book, The Healthcare Executive's Guide to Urgent Care Centers and Freestanding EDs. >>>

As cost pressure has risen, the typical ways of reducing demand?increased copayments and high deductible health plans have not reduced the demand for medical services. Investing in UCCs puts health plans closer to the point of care where they can more directly influence treatments and healthcare costs, explains David Windley, a Nashville-based research analyst with Jeffries & Company. Profit, in other words, is not the primary goal.


Margaret Dick Tocknell Margaret Dick Tocknell is a reporter/editor with HealthLeaders Media.


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