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Health: Affordable Care Act Might Not Directly Affect You, But It May Change What You Do When You're Sick


By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Where to go when you need medical help.  There are a growing number of options.  It's no longer just a choice between your doctor or the emergency room.   As the next phase of the health care law takes effect tomorrow, more and more retail health clinics are popping up.  3 On Your Side Health Reporter Stephanie Stahl helps you figure out where to go.

Urgent Care, Minute Clinic, Take Care, you see them everywhere.  In drug stores, malls and on the highway.   Finding health care is becoming as easy as stopping for gas.

"It's faster, and it's very much more convenient than going to the regular doctors," said Myla Brown, who went to the CVS Minute Clinic for a flu shot.  No appointment necessary.

"All of the Minute Clinics are staffed by registered nurse practitioners," said Cheryl Fattibene, the State Practice Manager of the CVS Caremark Minute Clinics in Pennsylvania.  She says drug store retail clinics are able to do things like give vaccines, check cholesterol levels, do physicals, and test for infections.  Prices are similar to a doctor's office, and generally covered by insurance.

"Minute Clinic has always been focused on acute care services.  We are now looking more in to the realm of wellness care, so pretty much anything you would go to a primary care provider office for," said Cheryl.

CVS is opening 200 new clinics this year to accommodate an expected onslaught of new patients with insurance from the Affordable Care Act.

"I think everyone agrees right now  there are not enough primary care physicians to be able to handle the influx of new patients," said Dr. Steven Weinberger, CEO of the American College of Physicians.

Along with retail clinics in drug stores that only have nurses, there's also been an explosion in the number of urgent care centers that are staffed with doctors.

"We're able to do everything here," said Dr. Michael McCormick, CEO of ExpressMed of King of Prussia.  He says it's a doctor's office that operates like a mini emergency room, but they can't operate or handle life threatening situations like strokes or heart attacks.

"We have x-ray on site.  We have labs on site, and we have the medications to be able to dispense on site," said Dr. McCormick.

Marybeth Thornbury was diagnosed and treated for a sinus infection.  She initially came to the ExpressMed with her 15-year-old son, who has asthma.   She couldn't get an appointment with his regular doctor when he developed a terrible cough.

"I was a little bit upset because he was also out of his rescue inhaler.  So I asked them if they would fill that, and they said that they couldn't do it because he hadn't been seen in 12 months," said Marybeth.  She says they were both quickly treated at ExpressMed, which accepts insurance co-pays or cash.

"This is care that is affordable for patients and easily obtainable," said Dr. McCormick.

Experts say you should check with your insurance company to make sure the retail facility you go to is in-network.  And use emergency departments for true emergencies.

For more information, visit the links below:

ExpressMed King of Prussia-

CVS Minute Clinic-

American Academy of Urgent Care Medicine Patient Information-

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