Walmart excels at providing value at a discount for many Americans. So that made Dr. J. take a moment to rethink things, as Walmart bent the cost-curve of healthcare when it introduced $4 generics. Patients went from thinking generics were substandard garbage to a valuable alternative to expensive medications. Perhaps the expansion of availability for simple basic care might work as well.
Right now, many primary care groups are booked solid managing patients’ chronic conditions. It is very difficult to be worked in if you are sick. Indeed, one of the two NAITMC primary care groups has its own ‘urgent care’ system where if you need an appointment for ‘not feeling good’ today, you see the group’s designated doc of the day. The other group works you in, but that is becoming harder and harder.
Walmart offers 7 day a week walk in service. ‘Get Well, Stay Well’ visits are $65 or less. There is a posted fee schedule, so you know how much something is and you can decide to pay for it, or not, and they do use an EMR so you don’t reinvent the wheel each time you go there.
Dr. J. looked at the clinic location and hours link (pdf) and found that the clinics are run my a number of reputable health care organizations, including the Sisters of Mercy Health System. Dr. J. thought some more and it reminded him, to some degree, to the independent optometrists that work next door to Lenscrafters.
So, what is Dr. J.’s take?
While your individual mileage may vary from clinic to clinic in terms of quality, Dr. J. believes that this is a net win for consumers. Walmart is making acute care more affordable in that if you don’t like the price, you won’t pay it (the free market at work), and more convenient given that waiting times for acute care visits to primary care doctors are increasing.
So when you compare this free market solution to expensive and/or scarce care to Obamacare, the choice between the free market and Gov’t run single payor health care becomes obvious.