Walgreens Free Health Clinic Visits a Sign of the Times

You can look at this story in several ways. Walgreens is offering free health clinic visits to unemployed and uninsured individuals. According to the Associated Press, individuals and their uninsured dependents who become unemployed and uninsured after March 31 will be able to receive free treatment at Walgreen’s in-store clinic, which operates under the Take Care brand name. The typical visit costs $59 or more. Take Care’s lab partner, Quest Diagnostics, is helping out by offering tests for strep throat and urinary tract infections at no cost.

How you interpret this says something about your health care reform biases. Some will see this as further proof that the private sector can fill in the cracks of the safety net. After all, Take Care clinics are a for-profit entity. The press their receiving for this program and the positive word-of-mouth they’ll be receiving. Additionally, since the Take Care program provides free services for treatment that might otherwise wind up in an emergency room or urgent care center, they may make some sales of their other services such as immunizations or makes additional over-the-counter drug sales. So what they’re doing is an example of a market-driven win-win: consumers get care; Walgreens gets more customers.

The other perspective is that this effort highlights the cracks in the system. Newly unempl0yed who don’t qualify for government medical assistance through Medicaid or the State Children’s Health Insurance Plan (SCHIP) are poorly served by today’s system. Without employer based coverage and unable to afford individual insurance, they must rely on a drug store for their health care. There’s something wrong with that picture.

My take: Walgreens is to be commended for reaching out a helping hand to those who need it, even if they’ll profit from the gesture. And universal, portable and affordable health care coverage is needed and needed soon. The current system works well for most Americans, but as a nation it’s our culture not to leave anyone behind. The lesson here isn’t that we need a government-run system, but that we need a more comprehensive, integrated and sensible system to assure basic health care coverage to all Americans.

4 thoughts on “Walgreens Free Health Clinic Visits a Sign of the Times

  1. I liked the low cost and convenience of the TakeCare clinic at a Spring Hill, Fl Walgreens, until my most recent experience that is. I have Medicaid, but they dont accept it, so on 2 visits I paid the $60 for the convenience and in so doing thought I was saving the state a huge hospital bill too. My sons Medicaid Dr was unavailable (the health dept voicemail) so When I brought my son to the New Port Richey Walgreens TakeCare clinic for a bad ear infection, I signed in and waited an hour, since they were out to lunch. Upon return the Nurse did her intake interview and discovered he had Medicaid, and then refused to treat him, stating that “it would be fraud to accept cash from someone who is medically needy and receiving medicaid benefits”.
    Fraud? Isn’t it discrimination to refuse to treat a group of people based on their economic status, or the fact that they have medicaid? I understand they dont take medicaid (they are working on that) but why wont they let Medicaid recipients pay cash for a clinic visit? Its not like they are billing patients and Medicaid at the same time, they simply wont treat you unless you withhold the fact that you have Medicaid, even if your willing to pay cash for your visit. I am going to talk to a lawyer about this. Has anyone else had this experience?

  2. Hi…
    I am interested to see what you may think about Cobra Health Insurance. Although it is provided for people who are recently unemployed, it is historically very expensive. After the stimulus plan, with the government’s intent to subsidize a portion of it, I wonder if more people would choose to apply for that more comprehensive coverage. Do you believe that the possible success of this Walgreen’s service will lead to a similar system put out by the government?

  3. Let me explain what a Low cost Health care Insurance is:
    basically there is a State Mandate health Care coverage, and yes they do cover you as long as YOU QUALIFY FOR IT. INCOME GUIDELINES APPLY. ADDITIONALLY to that you must have a review every year or six months in regards to income criteria. YOU ONLY HAVE A CHOICE OF HMO and you pay a minimun montly payment. No more than $20 a month. The problem with that is, ALL OF US WORKING AND PAYING taxes are paying for it and AT ONE POINT OF ANOTHER WILL NOT BE ABLE TO SUBSTAIN this State Mandate Program. As it is CA STATE HAS CUT A LOT OF COMMUNITY CLINICS GRANTS living you with the choice of going to a COUNTY HOSPITAL/clinic ONLY. is that what you want for Insurance Coverage? I don’t think so!!!!

  4. It is very natural to question something that sounds too good to be true. Hearing of this free service, I am also questioning what this corporation’s incentives are. Since Taking Care is a for-profit agency, how do you think they will eventually garner profit from this venture? You mentioned that, “They may make some sales of their other services such as immunizations or [make] additional over-the-counter drug sales.” Do you believe that the physicians staffing these clinics will be trying to prescribe medications they know will make the Tare Care Health company profit? Taking a more cynical stance, I think that the staff may consciously or subconsciously want to sell other products in the store, as opposed to recommending a more home-based treatment. Since most of the patients patronizing the clinics will probably be suffering from colds or pink eye, the products offered conveniently at Walgreens may also tempt them, leading to a profit in Walgreens’ pocket.

    While I also believe that these clinics are providing extremely needed services, especially taking care of infectious agents that may cause society more harm if not contained, I am worried that many may abuse this new system. With such a limitation of what types of services they provide and already philanthropic individuals working there, it will be very difficult to turn people away, especially if they are returning patients. I really do believe that this is a great program because as you mention, it does take care of that huge group that are unemployed and yet, do not qualify for any type of government-provided assistance.

    I am interested to see what you may think about Cobra Health Insurance. Although it is provided for people who are recently unemployed, it is historically very expensive. After the stimulus plan, with the government’s intent to subsidize a portion of it, I wonder if more people would choose to apply for that more comprehensive coverage. Do you believe that the possible success of this Walgreen’s service will lead to a similar system put out by the government? This may provide a great experiment in seeing what that eventual system may be like.

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