Time to Revive the Inner City Medical Clinics to Lower Health Care Costs

The current trajectory of healthcare costs in the United States is simply unsustainable. We are averaging between 5 to 8% year-over-year cost increases. The American people cannot afford increased insurance rates based on these costs, nor can the federal government continue to pay. If we don’t bring this under control we will lose the whole ship and as for Obama care; it’s finished. Okay so, what should we do about all this you ask?

Well, I’m glad you asked, because I noted something rather unfortunate. I noticed that there are no longer all the inner-city health clinics there used to be, those places that often offered services for free, or at extremely low prices based on your ability to pay, and were mostly ran with volunteers. One of the reasons is the HIPPA requirements, which in order to comply require a huge investment in IT infrastructure, most of these inner-city clinics simply couldn’t afford it. Burdened by these regulations, they had no chance but to shut down or merge with a bigger hospital, or sellout.

Now people with minor health issues, things that they need to take care of have no choice but to go to the regular hospital. Since they don’t have a primary doctors or anywhere to go now, they often wait until things are beyond their control, and show up at an emergency room. They don’t have healthcare insurance, the hospital must treat them for free, try to squeeze water out of a turnip, which simply will never happen, and those costs are added to the hospital’s already increasing costs; that on top of the lawsuits if they make a mistake, and they are not allowed to refuse treatment by law.

Indeed, I’d say it’s time to revive these inner-city medical clinics to help lower health care costs. No, that’s not all I’d do, I would also reduce the regulations involved with nonprofit inner-city medical clinics. Get rid of the HIPPA requirement, but make sure that everyone working there understood the need for privacy in medical records. I would allow the data anonymized for use in future medical research without the names. I would reduce the amount that a lawyer is allowed to sue for medical malpractice at these nonprofit clinics – actually at all hospitals.

If we did that, there would be fewer people seeking government run free healthcare which is going to add even more costs to the system in the future. This is one thing we can do to help people, real people in real cities, who really need healthcare attention, without overburdening our society with costs run by a giant and massive bureaucracy which has hijacked 20% of our GDP because that’s how big the healthcare industry is in the United States. Indeed I hope you will please consider all this and think on it.

Urgent Care Clinics Booming in Difficult Healthcare Market

The economic downturn, looming entitlement reforms and potential budget cuts in the United States at the federal and state level are allowing the growth of urgent care clinics, otherwise known as immediate care clinics, to substantially increase. This is considered to be a remedy to fill in the growing doctor shortage.

According to industry reports and spending by large healthcare operators, the number of urgent care clinics is projected to soar within the next decade. It is estimated that more than 8,000 urgent care clinics have been established – other numbers show 9,000 – and the Urgent Care Association of America reports eight to 10 percent annual growth.

Urgent care facilities are different than traditional hospitals and are rather similar to the health clinics found in places like Walmart and Walgreen because they are usually open on evenings and weekends and treat common health issues – some immediate care clinics do offer additional services like X-rays for broken bones.

Some medical professionals like to consider their urgent care clinics as after-hours doctors’ offices. Most of those who work in such an office do note, however, patients may not get to see a board-certified doctor or another kind of specialist.

A large percentage of walk-in clinics and urgent care offices are managed and operated by non-profit health systems, which receive donations and contributions in order to pay for construction and renovation costs, patient care program support, general operations costs and equipment purchases, according to the Association for Healthcare Philanthropy’s (AHP) annual Report on Giving study.

With so many of these operations setting up in malls, main streets and in major metropolitan cities, can the non-profit sector even pay for them? Well, Reuters is reporting that private equity firms have been investing money into urgent care clinics over the past few years. Although there is a tremendous risk in investing in these clinics because of the possibility of oversaturation and low insurance reimbursements, these firms work one-on-one with clinics to provide quality and to make profit.

Rand Health found that retailers are entering the healthcare marketplace too. Big box stores, such as Target and Walmart, only had a few of these clinics in the year 2000, but today there are more than 1,200.

“Retail clinics emphasize convenience, with extended weekend and evening hours, no appointments, and short wait times,” the organization states in its report. “More than 44 percent of retail clinic visits take place when physician offices are typically closed. Price transparency and low costs may also be particularly attractive for people without insurance.”

This is surely part of the profit-motive for these corporations.

Regardless of the concerns one may have over the private sector getting involved in such an industry, urgent care clinics are part of the nation’s future healthcare market, especially since President Obama’s Affordable Care Act is now law of the land and will add a burden to the system.

“Many factors could influence the future of retail clinics in the U.S. First, the growing body of evidence casting doubt on quality-of-care concerns could lead to greater acceptance and use of retail clinics,” Rand added.

“Full implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) could also lead to continued retail clinic growth. With more people insured and an increased demand for primary care under the ACA, access to primary care physicians could decrease. This may lead to increased demand for retail clinics. Similarly, if wait times for physician appointments increase-as has been the case in Massachusetts following its health reform-this could also increase retail clinic demand.”

Despite the concerns that some may have about private investment possibly cutting costs to increase its bottom line, urgent care clinics must offer remedies to health issues otherwise the consumer will go elsewhere to receive proper medical attention.