Let us be clear: "Minute clinics" are not a big issue in the Boston mayoral race. In fact, I asked David Scharfenberg, who has been covering the contest indefatigably for WBUR, whether he's heard anyone mention minute clinics even once in the many events he's attended featuring the final candidates, Marty Walsh and John Connolly.
Not once, he said.
But should they be an issue? The question actually has a nice bit of meat to it. In-store clinics can be cheaper and more convenient than the usual primary care. (Though the one time I tried to use one in Cambridge, the minute was more like a half hour, and then came the staffer's hour-long lunch break, so I left in disgust.) On the other hand, they can fragment the health care system and siphon off lucrative pieces. ModernPhysician.com (note: doctors tend to oppose the clinics) lays out some of the pros and cons nicely in a 2009 piece here: "MinuteClinic Struggles in Mass., still not welcome in Boston."
So why would this be a Boston issue? Outgoing Mayor Menino openly opposed the clinics and helped keep them out of the city. Consider this 2008 Globe headline: " Mayor Menino blasts approval of in-store clinics."
So now, with Menino in his final days, the forces in favor are raising the question again. In particular, Josh Archambault of the Pioneer Institute co-authored a report: "Mayor, Tear Down This Wall: Why Boston's Ban On Convenient Care Clinics Is Costing Taxpayers Millions." The institute's arguments are covered on BostInno here, and last week, the Boston Herald came on board with an editorial that concluded:
With a growing primary care physician shortage, no politician or policy-maker can credibly discuss the need to reduce costs while trashing one successful model for doing so. That includes the next mayor of Boston.
Bostonian readers, is this an issue for you? Should it be?
This program aired on October 28, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.