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Newspapers and online media outlets across the country picked up on what had been a pretty mundane local story recently, with the net effect being a bad look for urgent care. It all started when a high school junior flipped her car and slammed into a tree while driving along a winding road in Rome, GA. She was unhurt except for a headache, for which her father took her to the closest urgent care center to be evaluated for concussion. According to the dad—as quoted in an article that was published online by the Weatherford Democrat in Texas, NPR, the blog of a Washington, DC law firm, and others—the person at the front desk told them three times, “We don’t take third-party insurance.” Baffled and frustrated but still in need of care, father and daughter moved on to the emergency room, where she was evaluated and they received a bill for $17,005. On the surface, the explanation for the urgent care policy is that it’s meant to protect urgent care operators from long waits for car insurance settlements. However, the perception could be that it’s a way for healthcare systems to push patients from relatively inexpensive UCCs to more lucrative ED visits. Either way, it’s an image problem for the industry and especially for the urgent care operator in the community. Damage control may require a proactive campaign to gain back the public’s trust. An article in the JUCM archive, Public Relations in Urgent Care: A Step-By-Step Plan for Success, may be of help. And urgent care providers who do see patients who’ve been involved in a car crash may want to check out Assessing Patients in the Wake of Motor Vehicle Accidents.

Car Accident + Payment Policy = a Bad Look for Urgent Care. What Would You Do?