Urgent care has become more prevalent across the country for years, but new data from Massachusetts put a number on its growth there that is likely higher than many would have predicted. The number of urgent care centers grew 800% from 2010 through the end of 2017, according to a report from the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission. Retail clinics are also multiplying, though at a lower rate. By way of explanation, the Commission said it found “staggering differences” in the cost of visiting an urgent care center or retail clinics vs a trip to the emergency room; the average cost of an ED visit was just under $900 (average patient copayment: $118), compared with an average urgent care bill of $149, with a copay of $33 on average. Small wonder, then, that analysts say demand for lower-cost alternatives to traditional outpatient experiences is higher than ever. Things could continue along this trajectory if other fresh data are any indication; the Health Policy Commission also revealed that 27% of current visits to the ED could be appropriately managed in an urgent care center. All of this comes on the heels of a major legislative “win” for the urgent care industry, as earlier this month a bill that would have imposed an 8.75% tax on urgent care charges in Massachusetts died in the legislative process—thanks in part to lobbying efforts by the Urgent Care Association and other interested parties.
More Good News from Massachusetts: Urgent Care Growth is Exploding