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Urgent Care Centers Could be Beneficiary of New Illinois Policy On STD Testing

November 2, 2015
std testing

There are over 6,800 urgent care centers in the U.S. and a recent change in Illinois’ state policy could cause a rise in certain services being sought out at these facilities across the state. Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) can be dangerous, embarrassing, and hard enough to deal with, but it just got a little harder for some people to get STD testing done in the state of Illinois. According to the healthcare business news source, Illinois notified over 100 organizations earlier this month that the state will no longer provide funding for free HIV, syphilis, and other STD testing procedures.

The move comes at a particularly difficult time for a state that’s currently struggling to pass a budget that’s been overdue since mid-summer. Local health clinics and medical centers have already been dealing with staff cuts, suspended programs, and hour reductions as a result of the political stalemate.

However, state officials insist the decision has nothing to do with the ongoing budget problems, according to Illinois Department of Public Health spokeswoman Melaney Arnold. She says it’s part of a larger ongoing effort to allow state laboratories to focus on specializing in testing involving the identification and tracing of diseases and outbreaks, such as Ebola and ricin.

While local health clinics like Planned Parenthood and even jails are still offering STD testing services, they must now send the specimens to private labs or hospitals and pay their prices.

“Testing is being reduced and consolidated at the IDPH Division of Laboratories due to decreased financial and human resources,” the memo states.

Last year Illinois state labs tested 85,000 samples for gonorrhea and chlamydia, 21,000 for syphilis, and 13,000 for HIV. It cost them $10.2 million in total, according to Arnold. It falls in line with the prevailing knowledge that anything the government can do, the private sector can do cheaper and more efficiently. Urgent care centers cost $1,350 less on average than a trip to the emergency room.

Arnold believes the move makes sense for all involved as private labs can do the same STD testing for a fraction of the cost the state can. Due to regulations, materials, personnel expenses, etc. it can cost almost $100 more for the state to do the exact same test as a private lab.

They’ve been around since the 70s in the U.S., but as more and more people turn to urgent care clinics for everyday treatment and diagnoses, they may also turn to them for their STD testing needs as well, at least in the state of Illinois.