Among the key points in the healthcare bill introduced by Massachusetts Governor Charles Baker are efforts to settle on a core definition of urgent care, but also steps to require urgent care centers to be “licensed” by the state and provide mental health services, meet certain primary care standards, and accept MassHealth members. Those elements of the bill, H. 4134, are a nod to the growing influence of urgent care (and retail clinics) in Massachusetts, in the governor’s view. “Research has shown that greater access to these sites holds the potential to reduce avoidable and costlier emergency department visits, and utilization continues to grow,” he explained in a statement. Urgent care watchers are quick to point out, however, that Massachusetts may also be looking to get a piece of the action by trying to impose more regulations—and collect licensing fees and other sources of revenue—on the industry.
In 2018, some Massachusetts lawmakers tried to pass legislation that would have imposed an 8.75% tax on services rendered in urgent care centers. Several trade associations, including the Urgent Care Association and the North East Regional Urgent Care Association, lobbied hard against that bill, which failed to gain adequate support in the legislature.