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IMA Wellness Blog

New Health of America Report Shows Retail Clinic Visits are Up Despite a Lag Among Individually Insured

by BlueCross BlueShield of Illinois

BlueCross BlueShield of Illinois is an IMA member…

While many Americans are taking advantage of retail clinics, it seems not all consumers are accessing this convenient, lower-cost health care option at the same rate. Blue Cross Blue Shield Association’s (BCBSA) newly released Health of America (HoA) Report found the upward trend in retail clinic visits was fueled by consumers who obtained health insurance through an employer. By contrast, usage by new individually insured members has lagged since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplaces started offering coverage in 2014. For instance, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois (BCBSIL) saw visits increase 11.7 percent from 2014 to 2015 among employer group members, while visits fell 4.5 percent among members who were individually insured.

There are more than 2,000 retail clinics located in pharmacies, grocers and “big box” stores that provide care for simple, acute conditions — such as bronchitis and flu — and administers services such as vaccinations or certain tests. Typically staffed by nurse practitioners, they offer convenient evening and weekend hours as well as walk-in appointments.

Another key finding from the HoA report is that as many as 29.8 percent of emergency room (ER) visits were for conditions that could easily have been treated in a retail clinic, further evidence that more work is needed to help consumers understand the importance of utilizing the appropriate care setting. Prices for retail clinic visits are significantly lower than a visit to the ER and slightly less expensive than a doctor’s office visit.


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