Shuttered Clinics Could Hit More Wallets


Access to quick, cheap health care could be even harder to come by as more clinics inside drug and grocery store chains close.

In moves that cut off access to affordable, walk-in health care costing as little as $30 a visit, 11 MinuteClinics at CVS Pharmacies (Stock Quote: CVS) were closed in Texas in June, and in March, 89 MinuteClinics were shuttered nationwide, according to Merchant Medicine News, a trade publication.

Since the clinics treat non-emergency conditions like infections, skin conditions and minor injuries that folks might otherwise go to the emergency room for, low-income, uninsured and underinsured Americans may be forced to spend more for urgent care at a hospital.

Without a convenient care clinic, about 40% of clinic patients have said they would have gone to the emergency room or an urgent care center or would have forgone treatment altogether, according to a survey by the Convenient Care Association, an organization of retail-based clinics.

The retail clinics, which are generally run by separate clinic operators and not a store itself, also provide basic check-ups, perform diagnostic tests and administer vaccinations, and they’re usually open into the evenings, seven days a week at certain drug stores as well as grocery stores including Kroger (Stock Quote: KR), Publix, and retailers Target (Stock Quote: TGT).

Recently, retail giant Wal-Mart (Stock Quote: WMT) warned that it wouldn’t meet its expectations to open 400 clinics in its stores in the next two or three years. Currently, the company only runs 34 clinics nationwide. In addition, one TakeCare clinic operated by Walgreens (Stock Quote: WAG) was closed in Milwaukee recently.

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