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How free-standing emergency departments (EDs) present themselves to the community continues to cause confusion for patients, ultimately leading to unexpectedly higher medical bills and negative overall experiences. Some free-standing EDs have the term “urgent care” in their name, which many believe is misleading. And now there is at least one effort to investigate a class action lawsuit for patients who accessed what they believed was urgent care—based on the facility’s sign out front—only to find they were actually accessing a more costly hospital-affiliated ED. As it turns out, the 2022 federal No Surprises Act does not apply in this situation. Some advocates are calling for Medicare to enact so-called “site-neutral payments” that would normalize prices, but policy work is slow-going. 

Your work cut out for you: Since there is no law defining how the label “urgent care” can be used on signage, branding, or marketing, it’s up to urgent care operators to educate their local communities on the convenience, services, and price point of urgent care.

Patients Confused by ‘Urgent Care’ Label on Hospital EDs