BCBSNC invests in urgent care to reduce ER visits

Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina (BCBSNC) is banking on urgent care clinics to help it defray the cost of hospital emergency room visits.

The state's largest insurer announced Wednesday that it's investing an undisclosed amount of money into FastMed Urgent Care, which already operates 26 clinics in North Carolina and 16 in Arizona. Through a strategic collaboration between BCBSNC and FastMed, the two companies plan to open more urgent care clinics throughout North Carolina, reported the Associated Press.

"Over the next few years, BCBSNC and FastMed will consider dozens of locations, using data to strategically place the clinics in underserved areas that will benefit from more affordable care options," BCBSNC communication specialist Darcie Dearth told FierceHealthPayer. She said the companies already plan to open "a few" clinics around the Durham-Raleigh-Chapel Hill area, but the rest of the locations "are to be determined."

The idea is that if more urgent care clinics are available, then fewer people will seek care at emergency rooms, thereby allowing BCBSNC to save 90 percent of the costs for treating emergencies. "Working together, we can offer North Carolinians even more choices for convenient, cost-effective care," BCBSNC CEO Brad Wilson said in a statement.

Emergency room visits have been increasing, BCBSNC said, and 20 percent of all visits are now for non-emergency reasons. If only 5 percent of those non-emergency patients sought treatment at urgent care centers instead of emergency rooms, medical spending could drop by $8 million a year, Dearth explained.

To learn more:
- read the AP article
- see the BCBSNC statement

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