Legislation under consideration by Massachusetts lawmakers purports to help patients gain access to quality care more easily—the actual title of the bill is the Act to Enhance Access to High Quality, Affordable and Transparent Healthcare, after all. Critics are concerned that it will actually have the opposite effect when it comes to urgent care, however, citing several components of the bill as currently written:
- An 8.75% tax on the total dollar amount of an urgent care center’s billed charges to commercial payers
- Redefining urgent care centers so they fall under the classification of a facility—for the purpose of complying with reporting requirements for healthcare-associated infections, serious reportable events, and serious adverse drug events but not when it comes to capturing facility fees
- A state-determined definition of urgent care services
- A one-time provisional license as an urgent care center if currently accredited by either the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care, the Urgent Care Association, or The Joint Commission or current certification in either Medicare or Medicaid
- State-established rules, regulations, and practice standards focused specifically on the licensing of urgent care centers
The ensuing new cost and regulatory burdens on urgent care centers could be so onerous that they’d threaten access to urgent care in the Commonwealth, according to the most vocal opponents. The North East Regional Urgent Care Association (NERUCA) and the Urgent Care Association (UCA) have expressed that the proposed regulations fly in the face of the findings of a 2015 report issued by the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission, which revealed that too many emergency room visits statewide resulted from limited availability of care after normal business hours—and suggested that having an urgent care center in close proximity reduced ED use by 30%. Both NERUCA and UCA are urging operators and all concerned parties in Massachusetts to contact legislators to recommend that they abandon House Bill 4639 on the grounds that it will not only fail to improve access to quality care, but make it harder for patients to stay out of the ED. For help in determining the right legislator to contact, visit https://malegislature.gov/Search/FindMyLegislator.