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ABC7 On Your Side: Cheap health care
More and more retail health clinics are turning up, offering quick, affordable health care. ABC7 Eyewitness News teamed up with Consumer Reports' health experts to tell you when they're good to use and when to avoid them.
Some clinics are open 12 hours a day, seven days a week, with no appointment necessary.
"They love the convenience of being able to come in, to walk in at any time and be treated instead of having to go to the emergency room and having to wait long hours," said Dr. Maggie Bertisch.
Consumer Reports found that while not all clinics have doctors, you will always be seen by a licensed health professional who has the training to perform tests and prescribe medications.
If you are not covered by insurance, a visit usually runs about $55 to $75. And if you do have insurance, most clinics accept it.
Consumer Reports associate health editor Jamie Kopf Hirsh says there has been a dramatic growth in health clinics located in drugstores, supermarkets, and stores like Wal-Mart.
"The key thing is to go to these types of clinics only for minor, one-time kinds of problems, like bladder or ear infections, rashes or pinkeye," says Kopf Hirsh.
If you have a true emergency, like chest pain or a severe injury, you should be sure to go to a hospital emergency room.
The facilities are not recommended for children. The American Academy of Pediatrics "opposes retail-based clinics for infants, children, and adolescents."
"It's best to ask your pediatrician about where to go for medical care for your child at night or on the weekends," says Kopf Hirsh.
But for adults, the occasional visit to a store clinic can be exactly what the doctor ordered.
Consumer Reports says be sure to bring along a list of any medications or supplements you're taking. It's also a good idea to ask the clinic to fax a record of your visit to your regular doctor and details on any prescriptions you might have received.
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