CVS Closing Some Retail Clinics

March 31, 2009
Special Feature

For the first time since getting into the walk-in retail clinic business, CVS is closing some of its MinuteClinic sites on a seasonal basis.

For the first time since getting into the walk-in retail clinic business, CVS is closing some of its MinuteClinic sites on a seasonal basis. The company recently announced that it is shutting the doors on about 90 walk-in clinics and planning to reopen them next Fall when flu season starts. The closed clinics represent about 16% of the total CVS clinics, leaving 460 still in year-round operation.

Although the company claims the closings are being made to “align with consumer demand,” some industry observers see them as another sign of the anemic economy. Others question whether the closed clinics will actually reopen as scheduled. They also point out that the closings lower access to healthcare for the uninsured, whose ranks are mushrooming as unemployment hits multi-year highs. For an uninsured patient, a visit to a retail clinic for routine medical care typically costs far less than a trip to the doctor’s office.

The closings are a reversal of a boom in the number of retail clinics. Over the past several years, companies like CVS, Wal-Mart, and Walgreens have opened more than 1,100 walk-in health clinics. Although the rate of growth has been particularly robust since 2006, it has slowed recently and the number of clinics has fallen short of industry analysts’ projections of 1,500 clinics by year-end 2008.