Blue Cross NC closes purchase of 55 FastMed urgent care centers in state

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina has closed a deal to scoop up 55 FastMed urgent care clinics operating in the Tarheel State.

The insurer said that a dearth of providers in rural areas spurred it to acquire the clinics in that state, which are location in 34 counties in the state, according to an announcement. FastMed offers preventive care, telehealth, primary care and occupational care.

Blue Cross NC previously unveiled plans to buy the clinics in October.

"As I’ve traveled across North Carolina and listened, it is clear that access to basic primary care services is a critical need," said Tunde Sotunde, CEO of Blue Cross NC, in a press release. "With approximately half of FastMed’s clinics located in rural areas of our state with limited access to health care resources, I believe this is a vital investment in North Carolina.”

One of Blue Cross NC's first priorities is to address the staffing challenges and scaled-back service hours caused by pressures on the health care workforce statewide, according to plan officials. Blue Cross NC and FastMed will collaborate on ways to further enhance the patient experience, improve dependability for our members and communities, and stabilize the existing health are workforce.

Blue Cross NC said it wants to spread a wide net, saying that FastMed locations will offer treatment to any North Carolinian or visitors to the state regardless of what insurance they may have.

The company also wasted no time in choosing who will lead the effort, appointing Jim Moffett as FastMed’s CEO. The press release says that Moffett has a background in leading ambulatory providers, including primary care and urgent care businesses. 

Moffett has more than two decades in an executive capacity with various mission-driven and customer-focused organizations, according to the release.

"Under the leadership of Jim Moffett, I am confident our two organizations, Blue Cross NC and FastMed, can realize our commitment to improving access to quality care for all North Carolinians," Sotunde said.

The COVID-19 pandemic led to a significant thinning of the ranks of providers nationwide. North Carolina, for example, lost about 9% of its direct care workforce between 2016 and 2021. Blue Cross NC said in the release that building up FastMed's capabilities is a key focus.

“As the health care industry continues to change rapidly, new partnerships and affiliations to improve patient health and lower health care costs are more commonplace,” the press release said. “Blue Cross NC’s short-term plans for FastMed include returning to pre-pandemic service operations and investing in ways to further enhance the patient experience.”

Acquiring FastMed's urgent care clinics is just one of the recent moves Blue Cross NC has made to attempt to expand the reach of its services. Earlier this month, the health plan announced that it will allow early prescription refills in anticipation of severe weather conditions to ensure that members have access to needed medications. That effort will be in effect until February 7, 2024.

Blue Cross NC also decreased the cost of premiums for its Affordable Care Act plans by 4%. The cuts are expected to lower total premiums for those plans by about $130 million this year.