Is the urgent care model right for Vt.? - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Is the urgent care model right for Vt.?

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If you're really sick, but you don't want to go to the Emergency Room there are five new urgent care centers coming to Vermont which are direct competition for local hospitals.

If you break a bone, need stitches or have symptoms of the flu, you have another option than going straight to the ER.

"The urgent care model, particularly a private company like us, we're far more affordable and we're convenient," said Dr. Marcus Hampers, ClearChoiceMD founder.

ClearChoiceMD Urgent Care Center just opened its first of five locations in Berlin. Dr. Hampers says urgent care centers are made for non-life threatening injuries and can save you time and money.

"As an emergency department physician, its been my experience that probably 40 percent of the patients that go to the emergency department could be safely treated in an urgent care center," said Dr. Hampers.

But not everyone is happy about the new string of urgent care centers coming to the Green Mountain State. Those at the Statehouse in support of health care reform say they create potentially harmful competition for hospitals.

"A health care system in the state of Vermont is dependent on healthy hospitals that are viable," said Rep. Chris Pearson, P-Burlington.

Pearson is concerned with the lack of regulation placed on urgent care centers. Since they are privately owned entities, they operate on a different set of rules than emergency rooms.

"For instance, they have to take anyone who walks in. They can't ask you if you have insurance they just take care of you and so an urgent care center doesn't have those same obligations," said Rep. Pearson.

But legislation passed this session worked to level the playing field. Now, urgent care centers are required to accept any patient regardless of the kind of insurance they have. Something that Dr. Hampers says ClearChoiceMD does anyway.

"It's not going to affect us. We're already committed to accepting all insurances and we take Medicaid, Medicare, we take everybody," said Dr. Hampers.

He says the only time they turn away patients is when their health needs are better suited for an emergency room or primary care physician.

"For example, someone could come to us and say my blood sugars have been through the roof for the past 2 weeks, well that’s more of an issue for the primary care provider, is not something that should be managed in an urgent care center," said Dr. Hampers.

Rep. Pearson hopes ClearChoice actually sticks to that policy.

"I think if you put them on sort of a level playing field with the hospitals, I get more comfortable," said Rep. Pearson.

Some hospitals like Central Vermont Medical Center have even begun opening up their own urgent care centers adding to the pool of health care options patients now have.

ClearChoiceMD says all four additional locations in St. Albans, Burlington, Rutland and Brattleboro will be open by October of this year.

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