HealthAccessRI (see "Scituate doctor tours a cheaper approach for health-care," News, This Just In, August 6) allows patients to join a doctor's practice by paying a sign-up fee ($15-$80, depending on the practice), and then a monthly stipend ($25 to $30). In exchange, they get unlimited access to primary care, with only a small per-visit fee ($5-$15), plus 24/7 phone access and even some evening and weekend hours.

So far, nine practices with 26 doctors, including Fine's Hillside Family and Community Medicine, have joined the program. In addition, HealthAccessRI has deals with East Side Laboratories, three imaging providers, a podiatrist, the Rhode Island Rehabilitation Center, and Nursing Placement Inc., a home care provider, that provide steep discounts for services.

The program is growing slowly; only about 600 patients have signed up so far, but those who join stick with it, says Kimberly McHale, executive director of the Rhode Island Academy of Family Physicians, which helps run the program.

Emily Lisker, a painter and illustrator in Woonsocket, was among the first to join, and she says it works well for her, especially since she needs monitoring for her allergies and asthma, and this makes it affordable to see her doctor regularly. Before, office visits cost "a scary amount of money," she says, though she did manage to barter with Fine to help cover the cost. "His office in Pawtucket has my artwork in the hallway."

For details, go to



You have to hand it to Wal-Mart. When, two years ago, the retail giant announced it would sell generic drugs for $4, it started a trend, and consumers now have their pick of pharmacies offering similar deals — from Target and to Rite Aid to Walgreens and, starting this month, CVS/pharmacy.

The details vary; Wal-Mart, for example, offers some $4 over-the-counter drugs as well; CVS has a $10 sign-up fee and offers 90-day supplies for $10 (also available at Target and Wal-Mart), but not 30-day supplies for $4. And while all the programs cover a wide range of commonly used drugs — from allergy meds to antidepressants — the lists don't fully overlap.

Birth control, for example, isn't on the Wal-Mart, Target, or CVS lists, while Rite Aid offers several choices, but for $19.99 per 28-day supply, and Walgreens has two options for $12.

The key is to take generic drugs. Some doctors prescribe brand-name drugs by default, and if there's a generic version, the pharmacist will offer it to you. But many drugs — especially the ones likely to be stocked in the doctor's free-sample cabinet — are not available as generics, though other drugs in the class are: Zocor, say, instead of Lipitor.

If you need a drug that's not available as a generic, ask your doctor or health center for help, or check out RxforRI, which helps patients get free drugs from the manufacturers. Go to or call 877.743.6779.

A lot of problems for which people go to emergency rooms, doctors will tell you, can be handled by a primary care physician or by an urgent-care center. But when there's no choice, and you do have to go to the ER, they'll take care of patients, insured or not.

< prev  1  |  2  |  3  |  4  |   next >
Related: Cause for pause, Primary care doctors could be harder to find in RI, Hot ticket, More more >
  Topics: News Features , Kimberly McHale, Family Medicine, health insurance,  More more >
| More

Most Popular
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   SAVOR THESE URBAN (AND SUBURBAN) OASES  |  September 27, 2011
    It's not a huge state, but Rhode Island, you may be realizing, is abuzz with activity. There's music, poetry, theater, gallery shows, social gatherings, and all sorts of events at the colleges.
    Brown University president Ruth Simmons has made it hard to ignore the school's ties to slavery — and by extension, the ties of well-known Providence families.
    Christopher Bull is on the engineering faculty at Brown University, but what he teaches is a vision. “We all bear some responsibility in the direction the world goes,” he says, “and we need to accept that responsibility and act on it.”
    You’re headed to New York and you need to keep the trip as cheap as possible, but also want WiFi, so you can work. Or perhaps you’re due in Boston’s Back Bay area, ASAP, and you need the ride to be quick and direct, even if it costs a little extra.
  •   AT RISD: 2X4S, TAPE, AND 'CO-HABITATION'  |  February 09, 2011
    In photographs, it looks like a giant spider web. But up close, it's shiny and transparent under the golden light. It's big enough for a person to climb into and crawl through — or you can poke your head in from a hole underneath or on the sides.

 See all articles by: MARION DAVIS