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How to Dodge the High Price and Inconvenience of Your Doctor’s Office

by Shawanda Greene

Many Americans blame skyrocketing health care costs on others who, at the onset of a tummy ache, race to the emergency room.

I suspect only a few people define a four hour wait in a dimly lit, diseased lobby as a good time; however, it’s easy to overlook more affordable treatment options.

A recent study revealed 2012 medical related expenses for the average family of four in the U.S, who has an employer-provided PPO (Preferred Provider Organization) health plan, tops almost $21K a year.

For those with individual plans, the price balloons even higher.

Although the obscene cost of health care in America stems from a variety of stupidity. Today, we’ll spotlight just one resource that can help you cut medical expenses: retail clinics.

StethoscopeThese facilities are generally staffed by nurse practitioners and physician assistants.

Clinic staff administer flu vaccinations, provide instant test results for diabetes, prescribe ear infection medication, treat minor scrapes and bruises, and more—actually, a LOT more.

And they do so at a fraction of the cost as a primary care physician.

Besides lower prices, retail clinics offer benefits that match or exceed those available through a family doctor such as

  • Extended business hours, i.e., evenings and weekends
  • Upfront pricing
  • No appointment necessary
  • Most insurance plans accepted
  • Shorter wait times

Of course, every ailment isn’t treatable at a retail clinic. If you’re suffering from chest pain or you’ve snapped a femur in half, by all means, call your doctor or hightail it to a nearby hospital. But if you’ve come done with the sniffles or some other mild sickness, a retail clinic may be all you need. A website/smartphone app like iTriage will help you determine which form of medical attention is warranted depending on your illness.

For more information, check out CVS Minute Clinic, Walgreens Take Care Clinic, and Target Clinic.

Image courtesy of sscreations / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Have you ever used the services of a retail clinic? What was your experience like?

Did you enjoy this article?
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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

femmefrugality August 21, 2012 at 12:47 PM

Great resource! There’s also places like Med Express if you’re just mildly ill…you usually only have to pay $50 rather than the hundreds minimum you’d spend at the ER.
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Shawanda Greene August 23, 2012 at 2:00 PM

Thanks for sharing! This is the first I’ve heard of Med Express. There aren’t many in my area, but I’m sure their services could be helpful to other blog readers.
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Lance @ Money Life and More August 21, 2012 at 5:56 PM

We have a lot of urgent care places around here that sound similar. My girlfriend has gone a couple times but I’ve been lucky and haven’t had to go to the doctor in a long time.
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Shawanda Greene August 23, 2012 at 2:02 PM

I wish I’d heard of urgent care centers sooner. Until a few years ago, I didn’t know such a thing existed. They’re different from retail clinics in that they’re staffed by doctors and can treat more serious illnesses.
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Karawynn @ Pocketmint August 22, 2012 at 11:03 PM

I used a clinic once, years ago. I’d gotten a large splinter of rotten wood jammed under my fingernail about a centimeter up the nail bed, and I needed it out so it wouldn’t get infected.

The clinic doctor (pretty sure he was an actual MD) and nurse were … well, they were really nice, but not exactly competent. They worked on me for a couple of hours, were unable to numb my finger after multiple shots, and eventually tried to get the splinter out with no anesthetic. Imagine someone lifting your fingernail right off your finger …

Except for the pain it wasn’t a bad two hours. The doctor cracked jokes and the nurse showed me pictures of his sailboat. But they utterly failed to solve my problem and I ended up in the emergency room anyway. Where I was informed by a brusque and probably overworked ER doctor that the clinic doctor didn’t know what he was doing. The ER doc gave me a single anesthetic shot — this one turned out to be effective — and then had the splinter out in about three minutes.

The plural of anecdote is not data, of course, and so I don’t know how common that sort of thing is. But it did certainly cause me to shy away from such places in the future. But then, it wouldn’t occur to me to see any sort of doctor for ‘sniffles’ or ‘scrapes and bruises’ — I just handle it at home.

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Shawanda Greene August 23, 2012 at 2:11 PM

Ouch! I guess you won’t know for sure whether a clinic will be able to treat your condition until you go. The Minute Clinic representative I spoke with a BlogHer ’12 recommended retail clinics for those times you know what’s wrong with you. For instance, many people know when they have strep throat.

I wouldn’t default to the highest (and most expensive) level of care because of one bad experience. (I’m sure you won’t.) The iTriage app I mentioned in the post seems to do a pretty good job of pointing you in the right direction, e.g., retail clinic, urgent care, emergency room.
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