This Day On The Street
Continue to site right-arrow
ADVERTISEMENT
This account is pending registration confirmation. Please click on the link within the confirmation email previously sent you to complete registration.
Need a new registration confirmation email? Click here
Stocks Under $10 with 50-100% upside potential - 14 days FREE!

Free Medical Clinics Might Save Millions

BOSTON ( TheStreet) -- Many people who don't have health insurance will wait until a health condition progresses to the point they can't ignore it any longer. Then they usually visit the emergency room, which can't turn anyone away regardless of insurance status, but an uninsured ER visit often is very costly for the hospital and patient.

For the uninsured or underinsured who do not want to be hit with a big bill for an ER visit, treatment at a walk-in clinic could be the cheaper alternative.

A recent study of a free clinic in Providence, R.I., showed it reaped big benefits by saving more than a million dollars in projected health care costs.

Clinica Esperanza/Hope Clinic, also known as the CHEER clinic, was founded by a University of Rhode Island professor in August 2012 and is run by nurses and medical students. The clinic often treats non-urgent health issues such as colds, the flu and urinary tract infections. The clinic holds walk-in hours for uninsured patients every day Monday through Friday. It also offers flu shots and other vaccinations, diabetes support groups and healthy lifestyle and nutrition education programs.

The study surveyed data from 256 patients who solicited CHEER's services during its first five months of operation. For each service a patient got, he or she was accorded a score that represented how much money would be saved on preventive care in the future.

"When we incorporated the value of preventive services, we found an estimated savings of $1.28 million in future health care costs,'' Dr. Annie De Groot, the clinic's volunteer medical director, a research professor at the University of Rhode Island and director of the Institute for Immunology and Informatics, said in a press release. "From there, we calculated a return on the investment of $34 per $1.''

The study suggests that low-cost and free clinics can play an integral role in limiting unnecessary emergency room visits. In 2010, about 7% of the more than 129 million reported visits to emergency rooms were for non-emergency situations.

"With this alarming increase in ER use and the rising costs of health care, we feel strongly that communities could benefit greatly by providing increased access to non-urgent health services for the uninsured,'' De Groot said in the press release.

According to consumer debt expert and Huffington Post contributor Steve Rhode, community health centers served 20.2 million patients in 2011 alone  with 36% of them uninsured and the vast majority of them living at or below the poverty line.

In 2012, another study published in the Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved on free clinics in Virginia came to a similar conclusion as the CHEER study.

The study found that those who were uninsured but enrolled at free clinics were significantly less likely to visit an emergency room for care "with lower levels of clinical complexity." Additionally, a policy brief released by the Boston-based Pioneer Institute in October declared that the if the city allowed convenient care clinics to open in Boston it would save $6 billion over the next decade and "steer patients away from costly emergency room visits" by offering a cost-effective alternative for families to access medical care for minor illnesses and conditions.

Writing for Parade in October, contributor Frank Lalli also advised that dependent on the medical issue of the patient, a walk-in clinic could be a wisely affordable alternative not only to the emergency room, but even to one's primary care doctor. Lalli reported that a clinic visit could cost 50% less than a primary care visit and 80% less than an emergency room visit.

At this point, it is unclear how the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare) will affect the rate of emergency room visits for non-emergency issues, though it can be assumed it will probably lower the rate at least somewhat. De Root believes free clinics will unquestionably continue to play a vital role in bridging gaps in access to primary care suffered by lower income individuals.

Though De Root figures that the ACA will dramatically decrease the number of those in Rhode Island who are uninsured (about 120,000), she says that there will likely still be tens of thousands of people in the state that have been "left out in the cold." These people include the approximately 40,000 immigrants who pay taxes and have Tax ID numbers, but won't be eligible for coverage under the ACA.

"So we have our work cut out for us and lots of cost savings to do," De Root said. "Following the CHEER model could result in improved health outcomes for those deeply affected by disparities in the system -- and reduce health care spending.''

Select the service that is right for you!

COMPARE ALL SERVICES
Action Alerts PLUS
Try it NOW

Jim Cramer and Stephanie Link actively manage a real portfolio and reveal their money management tactics while giving advanced notice before every trade.

Product Features:
  • $2.5+ million portfolio
  • Large-cap and dividend focus
  • Intraday trade alerts from Cramer
  • Weekly roundups
TheStreet Quant Ratings
Try it NOW
Only $49.95/yr

Access the tool that DOMINATES the Russell 2000 and the S&P 500.

Product Features:
  • Buy, hold, or sell recommendations for over 4,300 stocks
  • Unlimited research reports on your favorite stocks
  • A custom stock screener
  • Upgrade/downgrade alerts
Stocks Under $10
Try it NOW

David Peltier, uncovers low dollar stocks with extraordinary upside potential that are flying under Wall Street's radar.

Product Features:
  • Model portfolio
  • Stocks trading below $10
  • Intraday trade alerts
  • Weekly roundups
Dividend Stock Advisor
Try it NOW

Jim Cramer's protege, David Peltier, identifies the best of breed dividend stocks that will pay a reliable AND significant income stream.

Product Features:
  • Diversified model portfolio of dividend stocks
  • Alerts when market news affect the portfolio
  • Bi-weekly updates with exact steps to take - BUY, HOLD, SELL
Real Money Pro
Try it NOW

All of Real Money, plus 15 more of Wall Street's sharpest minds delivering actionable trading ideas, a comprehensive look at the market, and fundamental and technical analysis.

Product Features:
  • Real Money + Doug Kass Plus 15 more Wall Street Pros
  • Intraday commentary & news
  • Ultra-actionable trading ideas
Options Profits
Try it NOW

Our options trading pros provide daily market commentary and over 100 monthly option trading ideas and strategies to help you become a well-seasoned trader.

Product Features:
  • 100+ monthly options trading ideas
  • Actionable options commentary & news
  • Real-time trading community
  • Options TV
To begin commenting right away, you can log in below using your Disqus, Facebook, Twitter, OpenID or Yahoo login credentials. Alternatively, you can post a comment as a "guest" just by entering an email address. Your use of the commenting tool is subject to multiple terms of service/use and privacy policies - see here for more details.
Submit an article to us!

Markets

DOW 18,030.21 +6.04 0.03%
S&P 500 2,081.88 -0.29 -0.01%
NASDAQ 4,773.4720 +8.0480 0.17%

Brokerage Partners

Rates from Bankrate.com

  • Mortgage
  • Credit Cards
  • Auto

Free Newsletters from TheStreet

My Subscriptions:

After the Bell

Before the Bell

Booyah! Newsletter

Midday Bell

TheStreet Top 10 Stories

Winners & Losers

Register for Newsletters
Top Rated Stocks Top Rated Funds Top Rated ETFs