County issues request for clinic proposals
by Jon Gillooly
September 26, 2012 12:56 AM | 2051 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Commissioner Helen Goreham
Commissioner Helen Goreham
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MARIETTA — Following the lead of the City of Marietta, the Cobb Board of Commissioners on Tuesday voted 5-0 to issue a request for proposals to create a health clinic for county employees and their dependents.

Responses are expected back around Thanksgiving and if all goes as planned, county chairman Tim Lee says the clinic could be in place by the end of the fiscal year.

Northwest Cobb Commissioner Helen Goreham said on the surface she likes the idea.

“I think the employees like it,” Goreham said. “It’s convenient for the employees, but it’s also a cost saving measure for the county and for the city.”

Goreham said she’s received nothing but positive reports in visiting Marietta’s program and the one used by the city of Chattanooga.

“So I look forward to the RFP to see what our program can look like, and hopefully it’s going to be wonderful for our employees and wonderful for the county in a cost savings way,” she said.

In September 2010, the Marietta City Council agreed to fund a clinic for its employees. The city clinic is an exclusive benefit of the city employees, their dependents, as well as city retirees and their dependents. It does not replace their existing health insurance, but serves as an added option.

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. City Manager Bill 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 told the Journal last week.

County spokesman Robert Quigley said the county also uses Blue Cross Blue Shield in a similar manner as the city, along with Kaiser. Quigley said the county anticipates the same outcome as the city with the clinic visits being less expensive.

In other business, Virgil Moon, the county’s retiring support services director, gave an annual update on the county’s pension plan.

Moon said the pension fund has 54 percent of the assets necessary to pay its pension plan benefits. The general rule is that 80 percent is considered satisfactory. However by 2042, Moon projects the county will have 100 percent of the assets needed to pay for the plan. He attributed the high liability level to the dotcom recession as well as the 2008 financial crisis.

“The pension plan is not in good shape but the action (the Board of Commissioners) have taken long term will get it in good shape, but you also have to be patient because it’s going to take a long time,” Moon said.

Southeast Cobb Commissioner and Delta pilot Bob Ott has previously said he is hypersensitive to the pension given that most people in the airline industry lost their pension. Ott said he doesn’t want that to happen to county employees.

Ott said he was concerned about Moon’s projections being based on an 8 percent annual return when the historical number of the plan has been a much more conservative 4.5 percent. Basing an annual return rate of 8 percent wasn’t conservative enough, Ott said, because it could create a bigger hole in the unfunded liabilities.

In other business, the board:

Appointed T. Daniel Buyers, senior vice president with McWhirter Realty Partners, to fill the vacancy on the board of the Town Center Area Community Improvement District left by the death of Skip Spann. The Board of Commissioners makes one appointment to the seven member CID board. The remaining six are elected by the property owners in the district. Northeast Cobb County Commissioner JoAnn Birrell said the member appointed by the commission serves as the commission’s pleasure.

“It’s not for a set number of years or term,” Birrell said.

 Renewed a contract with Jacobs Project Management Company for fiscal year 2013 for $5.28 million for inspection and construction management services on county pipeline projects and to provide utility locate services. The county is in a three year contract with Jacobs from FY11 to FY13 with two one-year extensions. The board renews the contract annually. The county paid Jacobs $5.477 million in FY11 and $5.04 million in FY12.

During the public comment part of the meeting, east Cobb plumber Joseph Pond, who founded the Backyard Chickens Alliance of Cobb County, delivered a presentation on why the Board of Commissioners should consider amending the code requiring two acres or more to have chickens.

“The State of Georgia says that you need four square feet to raise a chicken,” Pond said. “Cobb County code says you need two acres or more. Why is that?”

Pond said chickens are no louder than dogs and much quieter than parrots, yet dogs and parrots are allowed on property smaller than two acres but chickens are not.

“Any animal is going to smell if you do not clean up after them,” Pond said. “Two dogs create more waste than ten chickens. Small backyard flocks do not spread disease according to the CDC; nor will they drive home values down, according to the GA Realtors Association.”
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