Massachusetts seeks to regulate urgent care industry

The rapidly growing urgent care industry remains largely unregulated, and Massachusetts regulators are hoping to change that, according to The Boston Globe.

There is no definition of what an urgent care center is in Massachusetts, which means some are licensed as hospital facilities while others are licensed as clinics. Many operate as physician practices, which don't need a license, but individual healthcare providers must be licensed no matter where they work.

"There is no standardized definition or structure that exists for urgent care," Marylou Sudders, the Massachusetts secretary of health and human services, told The Globe. "In terms of consumer protection, we should define them and regulate them."

Last fall, Gov. Charlie Baker's administration proposed a bill that would require all urgent care centers to be licensed as clinics, provide care to low-income patients using the state Medicaid program and offer some mental health services.

At least a dozen other state bills related to regulating the urgent care industry have been proposed. Policymakers are expected to analyze and take up urgent care bills this spring.

"Our goal is to provide high-quality, affordable and accessible healthcare to everyone in the Commonwealth," state Sen. Cindy Friedman, co-chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing, told the Globe. "Urgent care centers provide this kind of healthcare to our residents — so yes, they, too, should be subject to regulations and oversight."

Operators of urgent care clinics say regulations and standardization could slow growth and hurt an industry that provides affordable care to patients.

"Any regulation that increases cost and complexity could be damaging to the industry," said Shaun Ginter, CEO of CareWell Urgent Care and a board member of the national Urgent Care Association. "We should be treated no differently than any other medical office. We feel very singled out and pulled out to the side when we shouldn't be."

Building urgent care clinics cost up to $1 million, and licensing requirements would increase those expenses, industry executives said..

"From a business perspective, nobody would open new centers," Lynne Rosen, CEO of PhysicianOne Urgent Care, told The Globe.

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