Expanding Access Through Retail Health Clinics

Published June 1, 2007

The retail health clinic model is a simple, effective innovation for providing health care service for routine medical conditions and preventive care, according to Grace-Marie Turner, president of the Galen Institute, a free-market think tank in Virginia.

In most clinics, prices are fixed for treatment of about 30 minor ailments, ranging from $40 to $70. The visits last about 15 minutes each.

Clinics use proprietary software systems, refer complicated cases to local physicians or hospitals, and are open late in the evening and on weekends. Major retailers such as CVS pharmacies, Walgreen’s, Wal-Mart, Target, and Kroger grocery stores are some of the affiliated businesses that carry in-store clinics. In March, a retail health clinic opened in a Harmony Pharmacy in New Jersey’s Newark Airport.

According to the Convenient Care Association–the retail health clinics’ newly formed trade group–a major goal for the future is to work more closely with managed care plans. Currently, only 40 percent of the 300 clinics nationwide are affiliated with managed care associations, including Humana, Cigna, United Healthcare, and some Blue Cross Blue Shield plans.

Because less than half of all retail clinics currently work with health insurance programs, a member’s co-payment might not be accepted. On the other hand, retail clinics are a convenient choice for those using health savings accounts, since they can be used anywhere.

James Rottet