A boom in urgent care centers as entitlement cuts loom
March 25, 2013
As the sequester and entitlement cuts loom, there's a boom in less costly urgent care centers opening across the country, according to industry reports and spending by large operators.
Urgent care, also known as immediate care, is similar to retail health clinics operated by Walgreen(WAG), CVS/Caremark (CVS), or Wal-Mart Stores (WMT) in that they are generally open in the evening and on weekends to treat routine maladies but also offer a board-certified physician and additional services such as on-site X-rays for broken bones.
"We really should be thought of as an after-hours doctors' office," Dr. Michael Pitt, a staff pediatrician at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago told Chicago Medicine magazine in an interview about the hospital's nine-month old urgent care center just 11 blocks south of Wrigley Field on North Clark Street. "At a (CVS) Minute Clinic, they see adults and kids, but the patient might not get a board certified pediatrician or doctor."
More than 8,000 urgent and immediate care centers across the country have opened with growth estimated at 8 to 10 percent annually, according to the Urgent Care Association of America. Most of these facilities are run by nonprofit health systems like Aurora Health Care in Wisconsin, which has 37, or Utah's Intermountain Healthcare, which has 25 and was the often-mentioned example of low cost and high quality care cited by President Obama during the debate that led to passage of the Affordable Care Act.