By Kristin E. Schleiter, American Medical Association
Retail medical clinics are an innovation in health care with the potential to increase access to low-cost basic health care services. In 1995, Newt Gingrich predicted that in the future, patients would either “go to Canada or Wal-Mart.”1 Today, this prediction has been realized. The trend toward patient-centered care has produced a new category of health care facility: the retail medical clinic (RMC). If successful, retail medical clinics “could change the way many people receive routine, non-urgent medical care,” with significant implications for insurers and health care providers” alike.2 The legal environment surrounding retail medical clinics is developing as states begin to consider the most appropriate and mutually beneficial way in which to fit the clinics into each state’s existing health care system.
Part I of this paper will begin by discussing the theory and history behind retail medical clinics, as well as the interests at stake for the primary players in the health care industry. Part II will discuss the various legal considerations that surround RMCs, including state legislative activity, licensing and scope of practice considerations, regulation of the mid-level providers who staff retail medical clinics, fraud and abuse issues such as the Stark law and the federal Anti-Kickback Statute, the corporate practice of medicine doctrine, and exposure of RMCs to medical malpractice liability.