Legislative actions means retail clinics allowed, but regulated

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A CVS Pharmacy location, within a Target store. (Sean Meyers/CVS Health via AP Images)
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Dan Goldberg

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Publicly traded companies would be allowed to own and operate retail clinics in New York, according to the Senate's one-house budget, which is similar to what Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed in his executive budget.

Retail clinics are the kind operated inside an existing business such as Walmart or Price Chopper.

The state health commissioner would have the power to regulate these retail clinics, including the authority to determine what services may be provided. 

The Assembly's one-house budget would not allow publicly traded companies to operate retail clinics. Health committee chair Richard Gottfried has often expressed concern over the creeping corporatization of health care, so the Assembly's rejection isn't too surprising.

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Both the Assembly and Senate would limit any clinic's role to acute care, or preventive care, essentially depriving the clinic of any-long term customers, or patients who want help managing a chronic disease.

The Legislature appears to be trying to keep retail clinics from becoming primary care providers, or competing with the integrated health systems state policymakers are working so hard to create and protect.

The fear is that patients, whose care is being managed by a large health system, will seek the convenience of a retail clinic for diseases that the health system's care manager should know about. That so-called leakage is a threat to value-based payment models that the state's policymakers are pushing. 

There is also a concern that these retail clinics would threaten the traditional pediatrician's office while at the same time having an incentive — because of their corporate parent — to prescribe more medications than are necessary. 

The one-house budgets take steps to prevent that from happening.

Both the Senate and Assembly prohibit retail clinics from treating anyone under two years old, and both prohibit a retail clinic from treating patient for the same condition or illness more than three times in a year.

Both budgets also require retail clinics to post a sign informer customers that prescriptions and over-the-counter medicines do not need to be purchased on site.