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Opinion: One Option to Manage Health Care Costs

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Vanessa Brown

Editor's Note: RV parks and campgrounds that provide health insurance to their employees are pondering how to handle this service as the day of reckoning with Health Care Reform approaches. The following column by Vanessa Brown, director of wellness for Apex Benefits, published in Inside INdiana Business, may shed some light on this dilemma. The column specifically pertains to the state of Indiana and does not mention campgrounds, but it has application elsewhere.

With health care costs continuing to rise in the double digits annually, employers of all sizes are aggressively looking for ways to manage their costs while enhancing employees' health and wellness. The employer-sponsored clinic is gaining popularity for a simple reason: it works.

The model has shown to proactively identify health issues, reduce downtime and deliver cost savings to employers. A recent study suggests that on-site clinics are expected to serve more than 10% of the under 65 population by 2015.

The clinic model is the right answer for many businesses. Staffed by a doctor or nurse practitioner, the clinic offers the same services as a general practitioner doctor’s office – only onsite at your business. Acute and primary medical care services, generic medications and lab work are all offered by the clinic.

After scheduling an appointment online, the employee/patient has a 20- to 40-minute appointment that helps to build the relationship, identify any underlying or secondary issues, and proactively address any long-term health challenges. Added benefits of the employer-sponsored clinic include convenience of care, online appointment scheduling, health coaching, a 24-hour nurse hotline, health risk assessments, biometric screenings and electronic health records.

The best part for employees? Because the cost of medical services is paid by the employers, there are no out-of-pocket costs for employees. The lack of co-pays and deductibles is another incentive for employees to make an appointment. Our clients' employees continue to rate the clinic as one of their most preferred benefits.

Costly chronic health issues are often exacerbated by lack of compliance to a specific regimen. Diabetes, as an example, needs a doctor's oversight and a patient willing to follow through. An on-site clinic offers integrated wellness and disease management programs to address longer term health issues.

Looking for innovative wellness solutions, like onsite clinics, is even more urgent given the looming additional demands of the mandates involved with Health Care Reform (HCR). Heath Care Reform will force employers to carefully review the viability of current benefit offerings. In addition to the benefit mandates, fee and tax assessments, some employers face increased plan participation. While most employers will continue to provide coverage, plan design and contribution changes will likely occur. Clinics play an important role in helping employees reduce out-of-pocket expenses and providing access to necessary care.

With the complex issues involved in HCR, there is an added urgency in evaluating your company's health care strategy to best fit your business objectives.

With Medicaid expansion and the Exchange as part of Health Care Reform, access to health care coverage will increase dramatically. As the availability of health care coverage increases, individuals could be faced with changes in access for acute and chronic care management. Clinics provide convenient and cost effective access to health care.

Start-up cost can be cited by some employers as a deterrent to considering the clinic model. In fact, costs vary and can be managed depending on the build-out required to create the clinic. Given that on-site clinics offer employers immediate savings of 10% to 30% in their total healthcare costs, the build-out cost is quickly recouped.

Several of our clients have launched successful clinics around the state of Indiana, including in Madison, LaPorte, Jasper, Knox, Howard, Jennings and Cass counties.

There are also dozens of employee health success stories made possible by the employer-sponsored clinic. Recently a clinic was able to identify an employee's prostate cancer early. He had no symptoms, but through routine blood work, the cancer was identified and he was able to get a referral quickly and have his cancer treated before it spread undetected.

Until recently, employer-sponsored clinics were largely considered the domain of large employers. However, we are seeing an uptick in cooperative clinics, which bring together several mid- to small-size employers to form the clinic. Just this week, Novia on Penn opened, the first Indianapolis downtown multi-employer clinic with initial employers Harrison College, McFarling Foods, Plews Shadley Racher & Braun, and Novia CareClinics.

If you are interested in looking at the clinic model or the impact of Health Care Reform, your first step should be to talk with your trusted benefits adviser about the right choices that fit your needs and align with your overall health and wellness strategy.

 

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