Trucker health care left in back seat, walk-in clinics help

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT)-- Life behind the wheel of a big rig for truckers means freedom of the open road for many, but the lifestyle could sometimes leave health care in the back seat.

Louie Helmburg works at the Tennessee Truck Driving School. He previously spent more than 2 years on the road and stayed at truck stops along the way.

"We eat, sleep and breathe there," Helmburg said.

It was a lifestyle of fast food and long days, some up to 10 hours on the road, Helmburg told Local 8 News. Experts said half of truckers deal with conditions like diabetes and high cholesterol, and most are left without health insurance. Those who do have insurance would sometimes carry deductibles upwards of $10,000.

"They'll look in their wallet first to see if they're sick," Mitch Strobin, with Urgent Care Travel, said.

It is why a trip to the doctor wasn't always easy. So Urgent Care Travel Clinic partnered with Pilot Flying J to combat the growing problem with convenience.

A first-of-it's-kind walk-in clinic started in Knoxville in 2014, but is now popping up at truck stops across the country to help truckers see a doctor.

"We have over 100 truck parking spots here to make it very convenient for a driver to not only fuel and take care of their personal needs, but also take care of their medical needs," Strobin said.

They also offer a network program for a flat, yearly rate with no co-pay or deductible. Truckers can go for in-clinic services as many times as they want in a year.

There are now 7 clinics across the country, but they hope to build 25 more in the next year.

While it is geared for truckers, they also offer family plans.