Cobb eyes health clinic
by Jon Gillooly
May 29, 2013 12:37 AM | 3129 views | 7 7 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Cobb Board of Commissioners Chairman Tim Lee expects the county to open its first employee health clinic as early as the next three months.

The Cobb Board of Commissioners in a unanimous vote on Tuesday authorized staff to begin negotiating the terms of a three-year contract with Charlotte, N.C.-based Healthstat, Inc. to manage the health clinic.

The county interviewed five vendors who responded to a November request for proposals, settling on HealthStat, Inc. as the top firm.

Lee said his goal is for there to be no copayment for employees and their dependents who visit the clinic, nor would they have to pay for the initial generic drugs the physician gives them for treatment.

The location of the clinic or clinics is still under review, Lee said.

The city of Marietta already operates its own clinic. In September 2010, the Marietta City Council agreed 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 dependants. 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.

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

Bruton said health care professionals at the clinic have diagnosed patients with existing medical conditions, such as diabetes, that the people being treated were previously unaware they had.

“So let’s say if I’m starting to feel congested, and I go here (to the clinic) and I get on meds earlier before it gets to become a full blown sinus infection, what have I done?” Lee said. “I’ve saved costs associated with the treatment. I’ve also saved costs as much as how many days somebody lays out for, things of that nature, so it’s wellness.”

The county spent $40.6 million on direct health care service in fiscal year 2012, county spokesman Robert Quigley said. The county’s health plan, as of last fall, covered 3,844 employees, 1,016 retirees and roughly 6,200 dependents.

“Health care costs, it’s one of the most significant, largest areas of cost to us,” Lee said. And anything we can do to keep it contained, even in this environment if we just keep it as it is today, we’re way ahead. So the initial read that we’re getting from employees is quit talking about it and get it done. They want to see it done.”

Also Tuesday, the board named assistant county attorney Deborah Dance as the new county attorney. Dance replaces Dorothy Bishop, who retired as county attorney in December.



Comments
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A Point to Make
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May 29, 2013
Reading the article it states that Marietta pays about $34,000 a month. Times 12 months that equals $408,000 per year. Later in the same article we learn the city paid spent $8.1 million WITH the clinic and would have spent roughly $8.5 million WITHOUT the clinic. The difference being...$400,000 dollars. Now, please go back to the top of the post where we learn the cost of the program is "roughly" $408,000. Where are the savings again? Or is it about convenience for employees - which is good and fine, mind you. But, if savings were the goal...where are they?
frogbreath
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May 30, 2013
It is a government function. The idea of being practical is actually an oxymoron in this case.
lechat
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May 30, 2013
Why do you assume the $8.1 mill "spent on health care services" didn't include the $408K cost? If you want to make a point, at least confirm your facts first.
FROM TEXAS
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May 29, 2013
This sounds like some of that great union contract Cadillac health care plans they will also get hit with new taxes from Obama Care; I’m sure the Cobb county taxpayer can pick that up welcome to Timmy Care. If the city is saving so much money why don’t they combine the two programs? I’m sure these programs can’t be combined because two different set of thieves. You have to love these smaller government Republicans here in Cobb County!
Kennesaw Resident
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May 29, 2013
AMEN!
Tybalt
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May 29, 2013
They save money because these employee clinics use a "single-payor" model. They have "less overhead and paperwork" because they can focus on care rather than trying to bill multiple different insurers who have different rules and reimbursement rates. Just think how much could be saved if the entire medical system worked this way.
lechat
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May 30, 2013
You're moderately clueless, aren't you? The described plan is nothing like an old-style, overblown, union "Cadillac" health plan, and has nothing to do with Obamacare. Setups like this, as noted, can actually save money, and, for just that reason, are also used by private companies that self-insure.

Other innovations, like no-deductible, no-copay, expenses-paid overseas surgery are also used by private enterprises as overall cost-savers. I can imagine the howls from the likes of you and "KennRes" if the county sent employees to Singapore for surgery, even if doing so saved $50,000 over a local hospital stay.

By the way, why not attempt a little coherent punctuation or something in your posts? Might make them slightly intelligible.
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