City Plans Employee Healthcare Clinic
By Carl Wagenfohr
CLEARWATER - The City Council took a step toward easing the cost of employee healthcare last week when they authorized the negotiation of a contract for an on-site medical clinic to serve Clearwater's employees, retirees and their dependents.
The clinic concept had been discussed for several years, but was actively pursued at the end of last year largely to offset the high deductibles offered by the city's base employee healthcare insurance. For 2010, the annual deductable increased from $750 to $2000 for an individual, and from $1500 to $4500 for a family. The annual out of pocket maximum increased from $3000 to $4500 for an individual, and from $6000 to $9000 for a family.
According to a city staff report, the medical clinic will be used for primary care office visits and case management, acute and urgent care, initial treatment of job-related injuries, immunizations, dispensing of a pre-determined formulary of prescription drugs, employee pre-hire and annual physicals, health risk assessments, disease management, and other wellness initiatives. All of those services would be provided at no cost to the employee.
Human Resources Director Joe Roseto had explained to the Council last October that other government agencies in Florida had realized significant health insurance savings after implementing a clinic, employee insurance claims falling $2 for every $1 spent on clinic operations.
To facilitate the clinic option, the City's 2010 health insurance contract with CIGNA was negotiated as a minimum premium payment plan, which compensates CIGNA for their administrative costs monthly and for medical claims weekly. Finance Director Margie Simmons explained last October that if the clinic's use produced the hoped-for reduction in claims, an immediate reduction in Clearwater's payments to CIGNA could result, enabling the city to recoup some of its clinic investment in the first year of operation.
The Council unanimously approved spending $1.5-million from Central Insurance Reserves to fund the clinic's startup costs and 2010 operations, and for city staff to begin negotiating a contract for clinic operation with CareATC, the winner of the city's clinic RFP evaluation process. The clinic, whose location has not yet been determined, could begin operations 90-days following contract signing.
This innovative solution to rising healthcare costs promises to improve healthcare access for Clearwater employees at the low end of the city's wage scale, and reduce healthcare costs for employees, the city and the taxpayer. "Ultimately, our objective is to get the employees engaged and make themselves healthier," said Human resources Manager Alan DelPrete, reducing big-ticket claims like heart attacks.
Steve Sarnoff, President of CWA Local 3179 which represents the bulk of the city's labor force, was pleased with the plan for a clinic. "We've been asking the city for health clinics for quite a while. We're looking forward to it," he said.
"We're hopeful that the clinic will cover 90% of the medical needs of our members," Sarnoff added, "Between co-pays, deductibles and prescriptions, it could cost $100 to see a primary care doctor; with the clinic, it will be free. "
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