KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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Retail Clinics May Drive Up Health Spending, Study Finds

Advocates say consumers can use the retail clinics to provide a less expensive alternative to emergency rooms and doctor visits. But the research in the journal Health Affairs suggests that instead patients are going to the clinics for care that they wouldn't necessarily seek from a doctor.

The New York Times: Retail Health Clinics Result In Higher Spending, Survey Finds
Insurers and employers are eager to have workers explore new ways of getting care, like visiting a clinic at a drugstore when they have a sore throat. The care they receive not only is more convenient, but also costs much less than a visit to the emergency room or a doctor’s office. But a new study published on Monday in Health Affairs, a policy journal, casts fresh doubt on whether these popular retail clinics will save money. Researchers concluded that the clinics led to slightly higher spending because people used them for minor medical conditions they would typically have treated on their own. (Abelson, 3/7)

Marketplace: Retail Clinics Aren't Saving Money As Initially Hoped
We’ve said it once and we’ll say it again, there’s a ton of money to be made if you can figure how to lower overall healthcare spending. Enter so-called minute clinics, the nearly 2,000 retail health care offices you find in big box stories and pharmacies. (Gorenstein, 3/7)

Kaiser Health News: Retail Clinics Add Convenience But Also Hike Costs, Study Finds
Retail clinics, long seen as an antidote to more expensive doctor offices and emergency rooms, may actually boost medical spending by leading consumers to get more care, a new study shows. Rather than substituting for a physician office visit or trip to the hospital, 58 percent of retail clinic visits for minor conditions represented a new use of medical services, according to the study published Monday in the journal Health Affairs. Those additional visits led to a modest increase in overall health care spending of $14 per person per year. (Terhune, 3/8)

NPR: Can't Get In To See Your Doctor? Many Patients Turn To Urgent Care
Though the majority of Americans have a primary care doctor, a large number also seek treatment at urgent care centers, statistics show. For many people, the centers have become a bridge between the primary care doctor's office and the hospital emergency room. Urgent care is not meant for life-threatening emergencies, such as a heart attack, stroke or major trauma, doctors say. But it is designed to treat problems considered serious enough to be seen that day — conditions like a cut finger, a sprained ankle or severe sore throat. (Neighmond, 3/7)

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