Retail Health Clinics Result in Higher Spending

Often thought, people who actually use retail clinics spend less on health insurance claims and overall medicine. However,In a new study published in Monday in Health Affairs, researchers concluded clinics actually made the consumer spend more for minor medical conditions that they typically could have treated on their own.

The original push by companies and insurance agencies for consumers to use retail clinics have been on the rise since it led to less overall spending and usage of insurance claims.

via NY Times:

The study looked at insurance claims data from Aetna, a large health insurer, for minor conditions. The researchers calculated that 58 percent of retail clinic visits were for services that they would not have otherwise sought, resulting in a net increase in spending of $14 per person per year.

“Convenience has an Achilles’ heel,” said Dr. Ateev Mehrotra, the study’s senior author, who is an associate professor of health policy at Harvard Medical School and a researcher at the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit research group.

There are some 2,000 clinics across the country, according to the researchers, accounting for more than six million visits a year. The clinics are distinct from urgent care centers, which tend to offer more sophisticated tests and treat more complex conditions.

In general, people go to retail clinics for simple conditions. A child may be running a high fever or someone with a bad sore throat may want to rule out something more serious.

Aetna, which did not fund the study but provided the insurance claims for it, says retail clinics provide a useful service. “Retail clinics are a convenient and flexible option that are available during extended hours, while traveling, and for minor health needs,” Kristine Grow, a spokeswoman for Aetna, said in a statement. “They are also a good option for consumers who do not have a primary care physician, and a far better setting for care than an emergency room.”

So what this is saying is that when you begin to rely on the retail clinics you have a tendency to return to utilize services as they are readily available. Even for minor conditions that you normally would just buy medication or use a home remedy.

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