July 6, 2012
Urgent care visits will likely see a considerable boost due to the Supreme Court ruling on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
“Although urgent care isn’t specifically mentioned anywhere in the legislation, the open access that all urgent care centers have should make them a natural entry point for the newly insured—especially in areas where many primary care practices aren’t accepting new patients,” says Lou Ellen Horwitz, executive director of Urgent Care Association of America.
The law’s mandate targets the roughly 16 percent of uninsured Americans, equating to another 50 million Americans who could be seeking medical care, Horwitz says.
Urgent care centers, on average, see 342 patient visits per week. This equates to more than160 million patient visits each year. The Supreme Court ruling will drive an increase in volume as these new patients may see urgent cares as an alternative to the emergency room, Horwitz says.
“Fortunately, the industry continues to expand and should have capacity to accept these patients with relative ease in most areas,” she says.
There are about 9,000 urgent care centers in the country, but less “full-fledged” urgent care centers (those offering lab and x-ray, open 7 days a week), at 4,500.