Affordable Health Care?

By August 13, 2007Health Care

Health care costs are on everyone’s mind almost all the time and with good reason. For those with health care insurance and employers, the costs continue to rise. For those Americans without insurance, costs can often be overwhelming for any type of care.

To listen to some of the presidential hopefuls in both parties, the only solution is to turn health care management over to the Federal government. Advocates of that path would have to explain how Medicare is already in that space and hardly a model of efficiency and low cost. So it was truly refreshing to read the recent opinion piece by Webster Golinkin, president and CEO of Rediclinic, showing how private clinics are already making a major beachhead in cutting costs and delivering quality care.

Over 400 private clinics operate throughout the United States today and more are on the way if opponents don’t derail them. These clinics, or convenient care centers, are indeed convenient, housed in shopping malls, Wal-Marts and drug stores where lots of people come and go. Staffed by qualified nurse practitioners, the clinics treat common ailments such as strep throat and ear infections, deferring more serious care to doctors and hospitals. The cost for most of these visits, which include a prescription that can often be filled 20 feet away at a pharmacy, ranges from $40 to $70 generally, well below what a physician or emergency room would charge for the same visit.

When my children were younger, from time to time they’d get ear infections. The prescription was always the same–amoxicillin, which cured the ear ache. But every time they came down with one, we had to first get an appointment with the pediatrician, sometimes waiting several days. It struck my wife and me as crazy that for such a common illness, the procedures for care were time consuming and difficult, not to mention expensive. Clinics cut through that inefficiency.

Unfortunately, some would like to slow this progress with expensive permitting requirements, limitations on the number of nurse practitioners who can work in a clinic and even bans on advertising. These steps would roll back one of the great promises for controlling today’s costs and making affordable health care available to a wide cross section of Americans, even those without health insurance.

This is not the first time we have blogged on this topic, which is so sensible that many manufacturers have had their own nurse practitioners on staff for many years to cut their own costs and speed health care delivery. Click here to read about it.

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