First 24-hour urgent care center coming to the Valley — and you’ll even know costs up front

A new Saltzer medical complex is coming to Meridian next year, bringing a health care option that’s been missing from the Treasure Valley: a 24-hour urgent care center.

The new complex at Ten Mile Crossing is slated to be finished in fall 2020. It broke ground Thursday. It is a joint project led by developer Ball Ventures Ahlquist.

Emergency room visits are more expensive than an urgent care visit — sometimes costing five times as much for the same procedure, according to

Urgent care vs. ER cost

Developer Tommy Ahlquist, CEO of BVA, is a former emergency room physician. Over the years, he got tired of having to charge people hundreds of dollars for minor treatment — $750 to sew up a small cut, for example. He sees the new development as one way to control those kinds of costs.

“We just believe that having an outpatient delivery system of care for everything that can be outpatient, to keep the cost as low as it can be, is part of the answer to the problem,” he said.

He told the Statesman that about 80 percent of the patients he saw outside of normal business hours could have been served by an urgent-care center.

Their ear infections, urinary tract infections, “bumps, bruises and sprains” couldn’t wait for medical treatment, but they didn’t warrant a trip to the hospital and the large bill that followed, he said.

Inside the Meridian Saltzer medical building

The development includes two buildings that, together, will be about 270,000 square feet. They will be located just northeast of the Ten Mile Road exit off Interstate 84.

In addition to the urgent-care center, they will house doctor’s offices, an outpatient surgery center, a gastroenterology suite, rehab and physical therapy, skilled nursing, medical imaging like X-rays, laboratory services and a pharmacy.

Saltzer Health CEO Ed Castledine said Saltzer hopes to make the pharmacy a 24-hour business eventually as well. There are only two 24-hour pharmacies in the Valley, he noted, and both are in Boise. The Saltzer pharmacy would be easier to access from Nampa, Canyon County and West Ada County, he said.

Saltzer promises cost transparency

Officials say patients will even know ahead of time what they’ll be charged for their visit, using technology that BVA and Saltzer Health are working with tech firms to develop.

“There is no reason why you can’t know what it’s going to cost before you go in,” Ahlquist told the Statesman.

Hospitals now are required to post their prices online, and health insurers have apps and websites intended to help patients comparison shop for their medical care. But the actual cost of a hospital stay, a laboratory test or a doctor’s office visit often varies significantly from those prices.

Ahlquist said the Saltzer model is different, and patients won’t be surprised by their costs.

“We are going to be 100% transparent about our costs,” he said.

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Watchdog reporter Audrey Dutton joined the Statesman in 2011. Before that, she covered finance policy in Washington, D.C., during the financial crisis. She also worked as a reporter in Maryland, Minneapolis and New York. Audrey hails from Twin Falls.