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red and white sign says Emergency with an arrow Emergency departments are a critical element of the U.S. health care safety net, addressing the acute medical complaints of all patients, regardless of insurance status. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Although urgent care centers are less expensive than lower-acuity emergency department (ED) visits, their use actually increases overall spending.

“We estimate that 37 additional urgent care center visits were associated with a reduction of a single lower-acuity ED visit,” according to a report in Health Affairs” “In addition, each $1,646 lower-acuity ED visit prevented was offset by a $6,327 increase in urgent care center costs. Therefore, despite a tenfold higher price per visit for EDs compared with urgent care centers, use of the centers increased net overall spending on lower-acuity care at EDs and urgent care centers.”

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