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.''