NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


February 21, 2008

The medical establishment is opposed to drop-in clinics in Wal-Marts and other retail stores. But self-interested doctors need to get over their archaic ways of doing business, says Rahul K. Parikh, M.D.

In our current system, costs keep rising and being shifted to consumers in the form of higher premiums, deductibles and co-pays, while access to care is unpredictable for almost any practice.  Despite having the brightest medical minds and therapies, basic medical quality in America remains poor, says Parikh:

  • According to a 2004 report by the Government Accountability Office about Medicare preventive services, 30 percent of people over age 65 did not receive a flu vaccine and 37 percent had never had a pneumonia vaccine.
  • Another example: In 2000, Medicare estimated that 6.6 million beneficiaries were never told by their doctor that they had high blood pressure.

On the other hand, retail clinics are thriving, says Parikh. They provide excellent access. After all, what's more convenient than showing up any day, night or weekend to have your sore throat checked?  No telephone time spent on hold trying to make an appointment, no shuffling your personal schedule to get there.

Then there's cost:

  • Retail clinics operate on a fee-for-service basis and don't accept insurance.
  • Most charge a maximum of $50, which is significantly cheaper than the $100-plus your insurance company will pay when see your doctor for the same concern.
  • That relative savings makes retail clinics a great place to go if you're uninsured and have a minor medical problem.

Overall, the growth of clinics, and the desire to pay out of pocket, is a not-so-subtle sign that consumers are asserting their purchasing power in the health sector, just as they would with other goods and services, says Parikh.

Source: Rahul K. Parikh, "Wal-Mart can be good for your health,", February 19, 2008.


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