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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- North Carolina's largest health insurer is making its first investment in urgent care clinics, hoping more of those locations, including several in the Valley, will drive down its costs for hospital emergency rooms visits.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina said Wednesday it is pumping an undisclosed amount of money into FastMed Urgent Care to expand its network of clinics. Chandler, Gilbert, Mesa, Scottsdale and Surprise are among the Valley communities with FastMed clinics.

Blue Cross said with more urgent care clinics available, fewer people will go to hospital emergency rooms, patients who don't need emergency care save hours of waiting, and the insurer will save 90 percent of the costs.

Clayton-based FastMed operates 26 North Carolina locations and 16 in Arizona.

The clinics are owned by the physicians who work there but are operated by FastMed, which is owned by private investment firm Comvest Group.

Associated Press,

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