According to an article in the News & Observer, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of NC (BCBS) “is pumping an undisclosed amount of money into FastMed Urgent Care to expand its network of clinics.” Why? Well, the insurer ends up paying the bills when people go to the emergency room, but many of those people could get the care they need at an urgent care facility. In fact, often they’d be better served by urgent care, where lines are shorter and care is therefore more immediate. And with an expanded network, more people will find themselves close to an urgent care facility than to an emergency room. Closer, faster care. That’s good for patients.
But it’s also good for BCBS, who claim that a patient who is able to be treated at urgent care will save them 95% of the cost that they would otherwise have incurred at an emergency room. BCBS certainly isn’t going to start denying emergency room coverage, but they are investing in facilities that will create a win-win. BCBS saves money (which is eventually reflected in the premiums their customers pay), and patients receive more immediate care closer to home.
This is just the sort of phenomenon that tends to emerge when the market is allowed to work. The current health care and insurance system has all kinds of problems, but this is a bright light, an example of the innovation that can occur when people are allowed to look for creative solutions without undue government interference.