South Carolina is now allowing small health clinics located in pharmacies and retail stores to be providers for Medicaid patients. The move will let those on Medicaid use those clinics for wellness visits and to treat minor problems.
The state Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) runs Medicaid programs in South Carolina. The agency’s Deputy Director of Medical Services Melanie Giese said the idea is to expand access for Medicaid recipients whose jobs will not allow them a chance to visit a physician in the traditional 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. workday.
“Our concept was to allow additional time that the recipient might be able to see a doctor… without going to the emergency room. Because that’s where our costs are,” Giese said.
The state currently has 25 CVS-operated “Minute Clinics” that are in the process of enrolling in the program. Similar clinics at Walgreen’s, Wal-Mart, and Target are also looking into it, Giese says. She says none are able right now to receive Medicaid payments.
However, some medical doctors say there are problems with the idea. Gregory Tarasidis is a Greenwood ENT specialist who heads the South Carolina Medical Association. He says he also supports improved access, but prefers a system where patients see the same doctor who better knows them and their medical history. “(Minute Clinics) are not set up to spend that kind of time with a patient,” Tarasidis told South Carolina Radio Network, “So our concern is that it won’t be as thorough as it should be or as complete as it should be.”
That can be an issue because DHHS emphasizes “medical home networks” for its Medicaid patients, encouraging them to use a single set of doctors and/or nurses. Tarasidis says he is also concerned that retail clinics will not do all of the appropriate care needed for a routine checkup. Since those checkups are only reimbursed once per year, Tarasidis said the patient’s traditional doctor will not get paid if a follow-up visit is later needed.
The treatments that will be covered by retail clinics include preventive care and help for minor issues such as allergies, burns, and sore throats, DHHS officials said.
“(Retail clinics) has been a concept that’s been growing,” Giese said, “The number in the United States has grown fourfold between 2007 and 2009.”
CVS, for its part, has opened Minute Clinics in the Anderson, Charleston, Columbia, Greenville-Spartanburg, and Myrtle Beach areas. The company says it also plans new locations in Beaufort and York counties, as part of an overall plan to open 100 clinics nationwide each year through 2015.