Include retail store clinics in your health care strategy

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in Employee Benefits Program,Human Resources

Issue: More retail superstores are adding low-cost medical clinics to their in-store services.

Benefit: Employers can use these "doc-in-a-box" services for low-cost employee preventive and wellness care.

Action: Check to see if a local clinic is opening, then consider this as part of a cost-cutting solution, not a cure.

It's the latest twist in the endless search for low-cost and accessible health care: On-site clinics within popular pharmacy and retail chains that provide basic medical services.

Retailers such as CVS, Eckerd, Wal-Mart, Target and Albertsons are rapidly partnering with outside medical companies to provide services such as limited physicals, common diagnostic screenings and vaccinations that range from $25 to $65 per visit. Most are open seven days a week until 8 p.m., which is a benefit for working families.

To help contain costs, the clinics are typically staffed by certified nurse practitioners, who can evaluate, make diagnoses and even write prescriptions in most states. If a case requires follow-up, the nurse may refer patients to a doctor.

MinuteClinic (www.minuteclinic.com) and Take Care Health Systems (www.takecarehealth.com) are the two main providers. MinuteClinic operates in six states. Take Care Health operates in Missouri and Oregon and is now opening widespread East Coast locations. Both companies have ambitious national expansion plans.

Those clinics have caught employers' attention. Some use the services as part of their employee-wellness efforts to help reduce costlier medical expenses that ratchet up health premiums. Example: A Minnesota company reduces employees' co-payments from $20 to $10 if they use MinuteClinic.

Bottom line: Healthier employees cost you less. These new clinics don't offer a complete solution, but they could provide a chance to provide routine preventive and wellness care to employees, especially if you offer a limited group health insurance plan.

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