Health Care News (Heartland Institute), May 1, 2009
Indiana state Sen. Patricia Miller (R-Indianapolis) is calling for stiffer standards regulating retail clinics serving patrons in pharmacies, shopping malls, and big-box retailers such as Wal-Mart and Target.
Senate Bill 0216 requires retail clinics to have entrances separate from that of the main store they are located within and post listings of all prices for services outside of examination room doors.
The bill also would require retail clinics to provide detailed visit reports to the patients’ primary physicians and to ensure all staff are trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
‘Solving’ Nonexistent Problems
“This legislation is a case of looking for solutions where there aren’t any problems,” said Greg Scandlen, director of Consumers for Health Care Choices at The Heartland Institute.
Retail clinics, Scandlen noted, “are already required to comply with whatever professional standards apply to all members of the profession. Since these clinics are taking a large burden off hospital emergency departments, they should be encouraged, not discouraged with useless regulations.”
“I am not sure why Indiana would consider this legislation necessary,” said J.P. Wieske, director of state affairs for the Council for Affordable Health Insurance.
“Will the same standards apply to all medical facilities?” Wieske asked. “Will all doctor offices and hospitals be required to post all of their prices too? Will all of the staff at these facilities be required to complete the same cardiopulmonary training? Will medical clinics or pharmacies inside hospitals also be given separate entrances?”
Clinics Filling Need
Some retail clinic officials say the new rules would slow down their business. This is a concern because the clinics see patients who may not otherwise have access to quality, affordable health care.
“Retail clinics offer people a convenient, low-cost way to get treatment, and they already have procedures in place to protect patients’ safety,” said Paul Guppy, vice president for research at the Washington Policy Institute. “By imposing new state regulations, lawmakers run the risk of driving retail clinics out of business, denying Indianans access to affordable health care services.
“Before slapping a whole new set of rules on health clinics, lawmakers should ask whether the restrictions respond to some real harm that is happening to clinic customers, or is this simply an effort by big hospitals and traditional clinics to hamper the competition,” Guppy added.
‘Attempt to Reduce Competition’
Mandating clinic workers be trained in CPR is unnecessary, said John R. Graham, director of health care studies for the San Francisco-based Pacific Research Institute.
“I do not think that any convenient retail health clinic poses as an emergency room, which is where you should go if you need CPR,” Graham said. “I suspect this attack on patients’ freedom to choose to get health care from a low-cost, convenient clinic is an attempt by primary-care practitioners who are afraid of change, to reduce competition.”
Aricka Flowers (mailto:[email protected]) writes from Illinois.