The city’s clinic does not replace existing health insurance for Marietta’s 695 employees, their 1,121 dependents and 255 retirees, but acts as an additional option.
The city pays CareHere of Tennessee about $34,000 per month to operate it, including staffing it with two physicians, two nurse practitioners and one LPN. It handles everything from routine physicals to infections and vaccinations. It has saved the city roughly a half million dollars since its opening last year, according to City Manager Bill Bruton.
The city’s health plan is administered via Blue Cross/Blue Shield. Bruton has argued that the clinic is less expensive than the usual setup because its costs are lower with less overhead, and because the convenience to employees means less time away from work sitting in doctors’ waiting rooms.
Mayor Steve Tumlin, a CPA/lawyer, was not in office when the council voted to open the clinic, but he says he’s been pleased with the results.
“It’s exceeded expectations,” Tumlin said. “We’re delighted with it. Both financially and for the health of our employees we’re ready to call it a success.”
Commission Chairman Tim Lee likes what he’s seen of the Marietta model and a similar one used by the City of Chattanooga.
“We’ve sat down with our wellness experts here in the county and it’s led us to believe that a clinic would be a good program for the county employees, clinic programs, because of the benefit it would provide for them,” Lee said. “If they got for instance a head cold, something like that, they can make an appointment, time is set, they get there, they’re not going to wait an hour and a half, no co-pay associated with it, most of the drugs are going to be issued free of charge, most of the testing. Although there is a cost associated with the clinics, it saves money in the long run from all these people going to Doc-in-the-Box or to the emergency room.”
Lee is hopeful that a similar clinic for county employees could be up and running by year end.
Marietta’s clinic came in for its fair share of criticism when first proposed, including some on these pages. It was seen, not surprisingly, as an added, unnecessary frill for public employees at a time of severe budgetary constraints, and an initiative that likely would cost taxpayers in the long run.
Fortunately, it is a “frill” that seems to be paying for itself, and then some.
In that light, the county cannot be faulted for exploring the possibility of setting up a similar clinic for itself.