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Walgreens to offer free medical care to unemployed workers without health insurance


Deerfield, Ill. Walgreens will offer free clinic visits to the unemployed and uninsured for the rest of the year, providing tests and routine treatment for minor ailments through its walk-in clinics. The drug store chain is offering the program, which applies to individuals who lose their jobs after March 31, in conjunction with its wholly owned subsidiary Take Care Health Systems. Qualifying individuals' dependents, including a spouse, same-sex domestic partner or minor child, are also eligible for free services if they don't have insurance of their own.

Walgreens will offer the free treatment at its in-store Take Care clinics. The Take Care Recovery Plan offer applies to most services currently provided at the Take Care Clinics, including routine treatment for respiratory problems, allergies, infections and skin conditions, among other ailments. Typically those treatments cost $59 or more for patients with no insurance.

“Walgreens and Take Care Health Systems will not stand idly by as individuals are forced by the hardships of the economy to choose among basic necessities such as health care, housing and food. Quality, accessible and affordable care should be the right of every individual," said Walgreens president and CEO Gregory D. Wasson. "For that reason, we are announcing the offer of the Take Care Recovery Plan, so that families finding themselves without employment and health-insurance benefits aren't forced to make this tough decision."

Hal Rosenbluth, chairman of the Take Care Health Systems division, described the plan as something close to an experiment: He said Walgreen isn't sure of patient demand or how much providing the services might cost the company.

The program is expected to last through the end of 2009. Walgreen runs 341 Take Care clinics in 35 markets around the country, including Chicago, Atlanta, Miami and Cleveland.

Free services will be offered only from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday. Walgreen said it will not offer free checkups, vaccinations or other injections because it is focusing on providing services patients might otherwise get at an urgent-care center or even an emergency room.

Patients must present proof they are unemployed, including a federal or state unemployment determination letter and an unemployment check stub. They will have to sign a form at the clinic saying they have lost their jobs and health benefits

If they find a new job or get new health insurance, they will no longer be eligible for free care.

Medical lab operator Quest Diagnostics is participating in the program by offering free tests for step throat and urinary tract infections.

Walgreen bought the Take Care clinics in May 2007. Take Care says it has seen about 1.2 million patients since its launch in November 2005 and estimates that up to 30% of them were uninsured.

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