Heath Care Costs: How to Save Money Using Walk-in Clinics

Posted on 01/24/2013

You no longer have to go to the doctor's office when you have a sore throat, sinus infection or other common illness. Limited Service walk-in clinics are exploding in popularity. NPR reports that CVS has the most with 588 MinuteClinics nationwide. Walgreens operates 356 clinics and Wal-Mart runs another 143. According to metrowestdailynews.com, using facilities like CVS Pharmacy's MinuteClinic can save you long waits and lots of money.

Avoiding the Emergency Room
For people without a general practitioner, the emergency room can seem like the only option for a case of the flu or another common ailment. But that's one of the most expensive places to get medical treatment. Instead, try a retail drop-in clinic.

Compare the Costs
A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine compared health care costs at retail clinics verses alternative sources. The study found that the average cost of treatment for conditions like a urinary tract infection, ear infection and sore throat was the most affordable at a retail clinic, costing $110. While a physician's office charged $166, an urgent care facility $156 and the emergency room $570.

Utilize Free Services
At CVS Pharmacy's MinuteClinic, health professionals often offer free health screenings. Right now you can get a free diabetes screening which includes a risk assessment, blood glucose test and lifestyle recommendations from a nurse practitioner.

Use Insurance
A 2012 poll conducted by NPR found that nearly two-thirds of clinic customers used insurance to pay for the visit. The majority paid $25 or less for the medical care. It's likely that your insurance will still cover the costs of your drop-in visit.

Certainty of Cost
Anyone who has received medical care knows it's not always clear how much services cost. Patients often don't know what to budget for until they get a bill. But with retail drop-in clinics, there is a certainty of cost. Each service has a set fee so there are no surprises. This makes budgeting for health care much easier on consumers.

By Alison Storm

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