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If Walgreens and Humana opt to broaden their working relationship, hospitals may be more at risk for lost revenue than urgent care operators. A new post on the HealthLeaders website conjectures that such a venture “could be part of a new competitive threat to hospital revenue as the two healthcare giants work to guide seniors covered by Medicare to low-cost outpatient retail care settings.” Inclusion of the qualifying word “seniors” is where urgent care can start to breathe a sigh of relief, according to urgent care insiders. Humana has vacated the commercial payer market to focus exclusively on Medicare Advantage, Medicaid, and Tricare plans—whose member populations are not high users of urgent care, historically. A recent article in The Wall Street Journal reported that Walgreens and Humana are so happy with their pilot program that they’re talking about taking equity stakes in each other. Neither company has confirmed that, but the idea itself has raised concern among other healthcare operators. While the rationale for such a partnership would be parallel to urgent care’s ethos—keep patients out of the more-expensive emergency room if they can be treated effectively in a lower-acuity and lower-cost setting—the disparate patient populations mean there probably would not be much of a ripple here. That leaves urgent care as an industry in the enviable position of being able to observe as things play out, and to see if there are lessons to be learned on administering special services to distinct populations. If so, that would benefit not just our industry, but patients and payers, as well.

Don’t Despair, Urgent Care: Walgreens–Humana Partnership Would Hit Hospitals Hardest