Insurance directories for urgent care are obsolete


UnitedHealth Group, the parent company of insurer UnitedHealthcare, will reduce its participation in public health insurance exchanges to just a handful of states next year.


When Kent Dolan moved from Virginia to Davidson last year, he decided to research nearby urgent care facilities in case of an emergency.

Dolan went to an online directory to find out which facilities took UnitedHealthcare coverage, which he had purchased. He selected a listed location – 705 Griffith St., Davidson – and drove there to check it out.

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When he arrived, there was no urgent care site. An Atrium Health primary care clinic stood in its place. Staff told him that urgent care had closed the previous year, Dolan said.

“If someone were to rush there for urgent care, it could be a really bad surprise,” Dolan said.

What Dolan discovered was not an isolated incident. UnitedHealthcare’s directory this week listed 23 urgent care facilities within a 20-mile radius of Davidson, a northern suburb of Charlotte. But 12 of the addresses listed were incorrect this week, The Charlotte Observer found.

According to the directory, as of August 8, six separate clinics were located at the same address: 705 Griffith Street. This includes “Ballantyne Urgent Care”, “Carolinas Healthcare Urgent Care”, “Carolinas Healthcare Urgent Care East”, “CHC Urgent Care” Care Huntersville”, “CHUC Prosperity Crossing” and “CHUC Salisbury”.

The same phone number was listed with each. He connects to an urgent care clinic, but at a completely different address in Mooresville.

There were more errors. The other locations listed as urgent care facilities as of this week were actually an adult day care center, a pediatrics office, an internal medicine office, a hair removal bar, a hospital with an emergency room, and a YMCA with medical staff on site. The Observer verified using this via Google Maps, Atrium and Novant Health locators, and phone calls to Atrium Health businesses and customer service.

“They have those listings in Davidson, but those places aren’t actually there,” Dolan said.

When Dolan discovered a primary care office while looking for an urgent care clinic in 2021, he called UHC Customer Service. But it soon became apparent that the representative he spoke with was looking at the same information he had seen in the directory, he said. The rep couldn’t direct Dolan to someone who had more information, he said.

The Observer contacted UnitedHealthcare to ask about the discrepancies, but UHC did not respond to a request for an explanation.

The Observer recently reported that experts say accurate provider directories are essential for people in need of good medical care. Inaccurate directories can lead to care delays and unexpected charges. Dolan expressed concerns about both issues.

“It’s a big deal who’s networking,” Dolan said. “As a retiree like me, surprise billing is a scary thing.”

Nadia Bey is a Charlotte Observer intern who reports for McClatchy’s investigations team in North Carolina. She grew up in the Charlotte area and will be graduating from Duke University in May 2023.

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