Storefront Medical Offices Emerge as Health Care Alternative for Latinos in Orange County
The Los Angeles Times on Sunday examined the increasing number of storefront medical offices in Orange County intended to attract Latinos by offering low fees, incentives and "culturally distinctive bedside manner." There are currently 94 private, for-profit clinics in Santa Ana, compared with 31 not-for-profit, government-subsidized community clinics in all of Orange County. The storefront offices are not regulated by the state, and some employ Mexican doctors who are not licensed in California, according to the Times. Dr. Michael Rodriguez, chair of the Latino Coalition for a Healthy California, said that the storefront operations are popular because of their low fees, Spanish-speaking staff and ability to accommodate patients without an appointment. Some offices charge $15 to $45 a visit and offer incentives to new patients, such as discounts and small appliances. Some offices do not accept health insurance, allowing payment only by cash and credit cards. According to the Times, the low fees reflect the "increasing competition among the clinics and the lower salaries paid to some personnel."
"We know there is a major problem with access to care, and it disproportionately affects people who are low-income, people who are immigrants, people who are Latino," Rodriguez said, adding that the storefronts "are filling a need not being met by our public health clinics." Although initial fees at some storefronts are comparable to those at community clinics, the costs of laboratory tests and prescription drugs can increase the price of treatment, according to Isabel Becerra, acting CEO for the Coalition of Orange County Community Clinics. Christina Carballo, administrator of Clinica Medica Familiar in Santa Ana, said, "My concern is the quality of care. The clinics just think about how many patients they can jam in. I call a patient and ask why they want their records transferred to another clinic, and the answer is often that the other clinic offered them a gift" (Mena, Los Angeles Times, 5/2).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.