Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Buy Health Care at the Store?

From MSN Money.

"If your child wakes up with a fever during the weekend and your family doctor isn't available until Monday, there are other ways to receive immediate medical care. A local shopping center may be an option."


"And because many regions suffer from a primary care physician shortage, making an appointment with a doctor is likely to get harder by 2014, when almost all Americans will be required to buy health insurance coverage.

Retail-based clinics aren't meant to replace primary care doctors."


"Access to health care is key," says Gabriel Weissman, a spokesman for Take Care Health Systems, which operates 350 clinics inside Walgreens drugstore chains in 19 states. "Over 40% of our patients tell us that if it weren't for our clinics they would go to the emergency room, urgent care clinic or wouldn't seek treatment."


"Retail clinics originally targeted uninsured and underinsured patients who paid for most health care out of their own pockets. Today, most health insurance companies contract with retail clinics, and the vast majority of patients -- up to 80% of Take Care clients -- use insurance to pay for their visits."


"But some health insurance plans, such as Blue Cross-Blue Shield and Health Partners, both in Minnesota, are dropping or reducing co-pays for retail clinic visits, which are generally less expensive than doctors' office visits."


"The landscape for retail clinics right now is quite positive. There's more support from the medical community and more awareness among consumers."

Clinics are also exploring new services, such as monitoring chronic diseases in coordination with primary care physicians. MinuteClinic added monitoring services this year for patients with diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. In addition, it announced new affiliations, including those with Catholic Healthcare West in Phoenix, Allina Hospitals & Clinics in Minnesota and the Cleveland Clinic."


"Some health insurance systems, meanwhile, are opening their own retail clinics. Sutter Health operates three retail clinics in the Sacramento, Calif., area. The industry is also making inroads into other locations, such as airports. The AeroClinic operates clinics inside international airports in Atlanta, Philadelphia and Charlotte, N.C."


"But not everyone's a fan of retail-based clinics. Some physician groups argue that nurse practitioners and physician's assistants who staff the clinics may treat conditions beyond their scopes of practice. They also say the clinics could lead to fragmented care if vital information isn't reported back to patients' regular physicians. The American Medical Association says clinics should have on-site physicians to oversee treatment, and it questions whether there's a conflict of interest in joint ventures between clinics and pharmacies.

State laws affecting the industry vary widely, with some states making it easier than others for retail clinics to operate."

Hubby and I go to one about 2-3 times/year for physicals, blood pressure/blood sugar/cholesterol screenings, and followup (if any). We get blood and urine tested twice yearly just to make sure everything's okay, and so far, it is.

Why go to a big, fancy hospital or an over-decorated doctor's office just for that minimal level of care? Diet and supplementation do most of the heavy lifting, so why visit (and pay for) the glorified pill-pushers when we don't have to?


Post a Comment