Cobb to mull health clinic for employees
by Jon Gillooly
September 24, 2012 01:12 AM | 4121 views | 17 17 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Heather Sauls gives Suzanne Johnson, a City of Marietta employee, a shot at the Marietta City Health Clinic on Friday. <br> Photo by Jon-Michael Sullivan
Heather Sauls gives Suzanne Johnson, a City of Marietta employee, a shot at the Marietta City Health Clinic on Friday.
Photo by Jon-Michael Sullivan
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MARIETTA — The Cobb Board of Commissioners on Tuesday will consider issuing a request for proposals to create a health clinic for county employees and their dependents.

In September 2010, the Marietta City Council voted to fund a clinic for its employees in a vote of 4-2, with Van Pearlberg and Grif Chalfant opposed, and Johnny Sinclair absent.

The city clinic is an exclusive benefit for the 695 city employees, their 1,121 dependents, as well as 255 retirees and their 121 dependents. It does not replace their existing health insurance, but serves as an added option, city manager Bill Bruton said.

The clinic, which the city pays CareHere of Tennessee about $34,000 per month to operate, functions like a primary care provider, handling everything from physicals to infections. It’s staffed with two physicians, two nurse practitioners and one LPN.

The city is self-insured, with a health plan that is administered through Blue Cross Blue Shield. Therefore, it pays participants’ claims. Bruton says the cost to visit a doctor through the clinic is less expensive than a similar doctor’s visit through the marketplace because the clinic’s costs are lower, with less overhead and paperwork.

Since opening, the clinic has saved the city $509,889, Bruton said.

The city spent $8.1 million on health care services for employees and retirees in 2012. Without the clinic, it would have been over $8.5 million, Bruton said.

Moreover, the clinic’s healthcare professionals have discovered many existing medical conditions with employees and dependents, such as diabetes, that were not previously known about.

“The total cost savings that they estimate we will avoid because of early treatment is $8 million dollars,” Bruton said. “They are saying that the total future costs of the medical problems they found in these individuals will be $8 million less because of the treatment they are now receiving.”

Mayor Steve Tumlin said he recommends the county adopt a similar program based on his experience with the city’s clinic.

“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.”

The county government spends $57.5 million annually on direct health care services for employees and retirees.

“We also use Blue Cross Blue Shield in a similar manner to the city,” said county spokesman Robert Quigley. “We also have Kaiser operating in a similar fashion. We anticipate the same outcome as the city with the clinic visits being less expensive.”

The county’s health plan covers 3,844 current employees, 1,016 retirees and roughly 6,200 dependents, Quigley said.

County Chairman Tim Lee said he’s visited the city of Chattanooga, which has a similar clinic program for its employees, as well as the one used by Marietta.

“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. By making clinics, although there is a cost associated with the clinics, it saves me money in the long run from all these people going to Doc-in-the-Box or to the emergency room.”

Lee said if all goes as planned, a county clinic could be in place in the next six to nine months.

“Definitely hopefully before the end of this fiscal year,” he said.

Lee said he wants whatever companies that respond to the RFP to consider multiple clinic sites for the county.

“For instance, a lot of our employees live in Paulding and Cherokee and Cobb, so we hope that whoever does it will be able to provide convenient locations for the wellness programs, so that if you’re a Cherokee mom, and you’re an eligible dependent, you don’t have to drive all the way to Marietta,” Lee said.

The Board of Commissioners meets at 7 p.m. on Tuesday at 100 Cherokee Street in Marietta.

Comments
(17)
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ProJour
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September 26, 2012
According to a recent article in Governing magazine, employee health-care costs for local governments average 15% of their total budget. In Chattanooga, it's 10%. Lakeland, FL, saved $1.1 million in one year after opening a “preventive medicine” wellness clinic. An analysis by Hewitt Associates, a management consulting firm, estimated that on-site health clinics saved employers $2 for every $1 invested. According to the 2012 Kaiser Family Foundation Survey of Employer Health Benefits, 29 percent of government entities with 1,000 employees or more said they offered an on-site health clinic.

Seems Cobb residents believe government employees should work for no pay or benefits, but simply for the pleasure of serving them.
Gimla
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September 25, 2012
I am surprised at the negative reception of this wonderful service! For those who doubt, have you researched this idea? The company? Questioned City of Marietta employees who have utilized these services? Evaluated the savings the City has realized? I applaud the City for finding a way to save health care dollars while improving access for their employees. Making this a priority tells me this is an employer who cares. Such a change and so nice to see! Cobb County would do well to follow City of Marietta's lead.
Bob Bummer
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September 24, 2012
County run senior centers and now this. I find it very hard to believe this is saving county taxpayers money. Large employers like Lockheed at one time had onsite doctors and nurses but I don't believe healthcare is heading in that direction again. I could be wrong but I don't believe in the long run it will be saving taxpayers money at least not after it is an expected benefit and then it would be difficult to cut. Best not to start.
Marietta Resident
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September 24, 2012
Dear Bob,

You might want to do some research into this somewhat uninformative article before you start slamming the idea.

The health clinic they would be offering would be another health care option for employees. Employees would have to pay a bi-weekly premium in order to have the option of using it just like they pay a bi-weekly premium to use kaiser or blue-cross blue-shield. It would not be free healthcare. It would most likely turn a profit for the county.

And for those of you that missed it, the county upped health care costs for employees again this year and actually overcharged by 6 million. Yes thats right, they overchaged their employees by 6 million dollars in health care by upping their premiums. Bet you missed the small blurb on that in your local paper. Maybe because it didn't cater to the East Cobb Tea Party agenda?

People, please do some research before you hate on the people that take care of you when you need it. Theres a reason firefighters and police officers are leaving in droves. You bring us cakes on september 11th but then yell we're overpaid 364 days of the year. We aren't even close to overpaid and its getting old seeing all this negative press and uninformed opinion.
Bob Bummer
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September 25, 2012
Resident, you comments are not reported in the article and nor have a read any MDJ article that can verify the information. I find it difficult to believe that county employees would be willing to pay even more for health insurance by choosing to add another deduction to their paychecks and if the county has overcharged for health insurance employees should get a refund by law. Of course county employees may not be so smart and many may blindly enroll in the clinic option and that would not surprise me and the county may be trying to spend the excess money as to not have to refund it also which would not surprise me. Public safety pay and benefits should be competitive and maybe that should be reviewed but I don't think a clinic is going to be a huge reason for those employees from going to higher paying employers.
Marietta Resident
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September 25, 2012
Bob-

Sorry I was actually uninformed myself. I believe what they are going for in this case in trying to lower the cost associated with doctor visits. Employees would not pay a different premium amount or have to add on extra to use the clinic. They would keep their same blue cross blue shield or kaiser options. What the county is doing is making these clinics available for smaller problems likes colds, sinus infections, check-ups and physicals. And what they are assuming from Marietta's experience with the clinics is that the bills will be less than a normal visit to your doctors office. The employee will still have to pay their normal co-pay, but the insurance company will pay a smaller amount to the clinic than it would have paid to a normal doctor's office. This cost savings then gets back to the county as they don't have to match as much health care cost in fringe benefits.

I believe the problem with this option is that you have to have your employess use the clinic enough to make it turn a profit. And with employees all over the metro area they may not be wanting to visit a clinic in Cobb if their PCP is closer to them.
Kennesaw Resident
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September 24, 2012
NO! It is enough to provide health insurance. Healthcare is NOT a human right. It is a commodity just like water, food, clothing, housing, etc.
Marietta Resident
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September 24, 2012
Hey Kennesaw resident did you even read the article? This clinic would save the county money on healthcare for its employees. SAVE, not cost more or give them free health care.

You people out there are starting to get old. Here I am running into a burning building for 9 bucks an hour after taxes and all I keep hearing is crap like Kennesaw Resident puts out there. Its starting to get to a point where its not worth it anymore. I love helping people, but I'm tired of them taking advantage of me.

If you want to complain try being informed on what you complain about and make a valid complaint. Stop yelling your tea party rhetoric and voting for no-answer numbskulls like bob ott. Come up with solutions and elegantly state them and maybe we can talk.

Thanks,

Your humble public servant.

For now at least.
Bob Bummer
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September 25, 2012
Resident, I doubt you are making the wage you have quoted. Experienced firefighters are the ones sent into burning buildings and if you are making that hang in there I am sure your wages will come up if you prove yourself.
Kennesaw Resident
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September 25, 2012
Sorry, I did read the article and I just don't buy that it will save the county money. In addition, I don't think the county should be in the business of providing healthcare. Isn't there another provider of these services that can provide them more effectively and efficiently because that is their business? I am just not going to drink the kool-aid.
Kennesaw Resident
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September 25, 2012
@Bob Bummer, what are you talking about? I think you have me confused with someone else.
Kennesaw Resident
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September 25, 2012
@Bob Bummer, sorry Bob, I see you meant Marietta Resident and NOT Kennesaw Resident. My bad!
Marietta Resident
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September 25, 2012
Nope Bob you are dead wrong. I have been working for over 5 years in Cobb and have been in more than enough fires to "prove" myself. I am not a recruit, I am a front-line firefighter. They don't pay for experience in Cobb since they don't give raises anymore. My pay has gone down every year I've been working due to increases in benefit cost.
anonymous
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September 24, 2012
show a cost savings or abandon this plan! We knew Tim Lee is a Democrat in name only, but this shows we were right.

What's next Tim? A million dollar conference for employees in the Bahamas? Remember, you have taxpayers really, really hurting out here.
Bob Bummer
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September 25, 2012
At the rate the county keeps adding these services I am guessing a county provided buffet style dining room and a 2 hour paid lunch to allow for driving time to get their and back each day. Heavy on the fruits and vegtables for the first year to say it is contributing to healthy eating habits.
Marietta Resident
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September 25, 2012
What services do they keep adding for employees? Please name them before you make random jokes about it. All I've seen in 5 years is a constant decrease in pay and a constant bullying from the public when it comes to our benefits and pay. Meanwhile my friends in the public sector are somehow getting raises every year and yet no one is accosting them with passive agressive comments or all out cries of hate.
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