Urgent care centers and retail health clinics are under-regulated, with many states lacking access to them for people in low-income and medically underserved communities or who are uninsured.
That’s what Community Catalyst and the National Health Law Program are saying in a new report, Making “Convenient Care” the Right Care for All: Improving State Oversight of Urgent Care Centers and Retail Health Clinics.
It also questions if urgent reproductive and sexual healthcare services and LGBTQ+ inclusive care are being offered, especially at facilities operated by or run in partnership with Catholic health systems.
“Urgent care centers and retail health clinics constitute a relatively new segment of the health industry and have grown quickly over the last few years. State health industry regulators have only recently begun to focus on the proliferation of these “convenient care” providers, so only a handful of states have taken action to strengthen oversight,” Lois Uttley, Women’s Health program director at Community Catalyst, co-author of the report, told HCB News.
Most states, according to the report, do not require facility licenses for urgent care centers or retail health clinics because they often operate under an individual physician’s license. As a result, such facilities are not required to serve people who are uninsured or have Medicaid, and may not have a charity care policy. While common in middle-class communities with insured residents, urgent care centers are often missing in low-income and medically underserved areas. In addition, many may not offer services for urgent sexual, reproductive and LGBTQ+ inclusive care, especially if run by a Catholic health system.
Uttley and her co-authors recommend that state licensing requirements and Certificate of Need programs be applied to these facilities, and include contract requirements with Medicaid and targets for percentage of service to Medicaid-insured and uninsured consumers. They also suggest states set up accreditation processes to standardize sites, mandate the provision of basic healthcare services, and enforce non-discrimination provisions; and that they establish coordination between urgent care centers, retail clinics, hospitals and primary care services to encourage a strong continuum of quality care.
Uttley hopes the report will motivate state policymakers to take action and will help patients understand more about the role urgent care plays in healthcare and costs associated with it. “The more consumers are helped to understand about where urgent care centers and retail health clinics fit in the hierarchy of the health provider system, the better they will be able to choose wisely.”