We ask how urgent care centers (UCCs) impact healthcare costs and utilization among nearby Medicare beneficiaries. When residents of a zip code are first served by a UCC, total Medicare spending rises while mortality remains flat. In the sixth year after entry, 4.2% of the Medicare beneficiaries in a zip code that is served use a UCC, and the average per-capita annual Medicare spending in the zip code increases by $268, implying an incremental spending increase of $6,335 for each new UCC user. UCC entry is also associated with a significant increase in hospital stays and increased hospital spending accounts for half of the total increase in annual spending. These results raise the possibility that, on balance, UCCs increase costs by steering patients to hospitals.
- Urgent care