March 31, 2009 / 7:13 PM / in 11 years

Walgreen offers some unemployed free clinic trips

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Walgreen Co is giving a small dose of relief to some unemployed Americans by offering free visits to its in-store clinics to customers who no longer have jobs or health insurance.

The offer, which comes more than a year into the recession, only applies to adults who lose their jobs on or after March 31. Spouses, domestic partners and children also qualify if they do not have their own health insurance.

The plan only applies to someone who has already paid for a visit to one of the Take Care clinics. A typical visit to one of the clinics, which treat minor ailments such as colds, usually costs $59 or more for patients with no insurance.

The plan seems to be “a rather expensive way to drive awareness of the company’s in-store healthcare clinics,” said Pali Research analyst Robert Summers.

He noted the cost of the program would only rise as unemployment continues to grow.

The number of U.S. workers collecting state unemployment benefits rose to a record 5.56 million earlier this month, while new claims rose to 652,000 in the week ended March 21, the Labor Department said last week.

Individuals must prove they are receiving or will receive government unemployment benefits in order to qualify for the free services, which are being offered weekdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. If a participant finds a new job or health insurance, that person and his or her family will no longer qualify.

Quest Diagnostics Inc is offering certain free laboratory tests, such as strep throat and urine cultures, as part of the “Take Care Recovery Plan” announced on Tuesday.

Take Care Health Systems, which is owned by Walgreen, says roughly 1.25 million people have visited the clinics since they opened more than three years ago. The company runs more than 330 in-store clinics and also operates clinics at nearly 370 work sites.

Reporting by Jessica Wohl, editing by Dave Zimmerman and Andre Grenon

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