Bringing doctors and nurses to employees helps local governments, schools and businesses control health insurance costs.
If a Greenwood city employee needs to get a blood test, the worker can take the elevator down to the first floor of Greenwood City Center and get that done. If a teacher at Center Grove Elementary School catches the latest bug going through the classroom, the educator can walk across the street during lunch to see a doctor. A worker injured at KYB Americas Corp. in Franklin can visit the on-site clinic to get checked out.
By using free in-house clinics and not having to travel to a family doctor, workers save time and their employers save money on insurance costs. Companies are able to work out an arrangement for doctors and nurses to staff the clinic part time, and employees can get free generic drugs, which saves companies the cost of a visit to a family physician or paying full price for prescriptions at local pharmacies.
By having a free clinic in its facility, KYB has saved more than $250,000 this year compared with a traditional insurance plan. The city of Greenwood has had its clinic for only about six months, but officials estimate the city saved about $40,000 so far, and more employees are beginning to use it, human resources director Marilyn Allen said.
Year-to-year savings on doctor visits and prescriptions add up, but health clinics ideally help reduce the number of major claims — such as heart attack, stroke or hospitalizations — by allowing employees to have easy access to doctors and overall better wellness, Center Grove Chief Financial Officer Paul Gabriel said. Center Grove has offered a clinic for more than five years, which has helped keep health insurance costs relatively stable, he said.
“We were at the same cost per employee that we had in 2009,” Gabriel said. “We are not at the normal trend, our normal consultant we work with is saying 10 to 12 percent per year, and we’re closer to level. One of the things I’ve said is that part of that is just plain luck, part of that hopefully is that we’re doing the right things.”
Businesses that have free clinics typically open them to employees, their spouses and any dependents who are covered by the insurance plan. The clinic becomes that family’s primary care office, where they can go if they’re sick, need a physical or to get regular health checks for chronic conditions, Allen said.
Clinics sometimes offer additional perks to employees. KYB, for example, can do physical therapy at its plant, while Center Grove has health coaches who can work with employees to track healthy habits, such as weight loss or exercise.
Clinics don’t have specialists and aren’t able to handle emergencies, such as broken bones, so people still need to use a hospital emergency room for those types of injuries. But more frequent doctor visits can help a worker get control of a condition that can lead to major health problems. For example, helping a worker reduce cholesterol could prevent a heart attack, Gabriel said.
People who have major claims, totaling more than $80,000 per year, affect insurance premiums the most, so reducing those large expenses is one way the clinic helps long term, he said.
“The cost of health insurance is all about claims. You can change companies and try to squeeze administration costs, but it’s all claims that drive your cost,”
The year-to-year savings on doctor visits, prescriptions and blood tests add up to immediate savings for employers.
Greenwood teamed with Franciscan St. Francis Health to open its clinic in the new city building, with the hope of saving more than $100,000 per year if at least 22 people per week use it. A total of 223 people have used the clinic since June, but more employees and their families are starting to come in, Allen said. The city is still gathering data to try to figure exactly how much has been saved, but she estimated the city has saved about $30,000 on doctor visits and at least $2,500 on blood tests so far.
KYB has saved $117,000 for 1,100 office visits this year, but the clinic also helps reduce overall medical usage, benefits specialist Janet Bentley said. KYB’s health insurance carrier reported that overall doctor visits are down 18 percent, costly emergency room visits dropped by 11 percent, and lab and prescription costs are also down.
“We needed to do some education with our employees so they understood why it was so costly to go to the emergency room. We’re able to redirect some of our employees to the clinic,” Bentley said.
Employee time is also another benefit that employers can’t put a dollar figure on. Clinics are located either in the same building or at a nearby office and are open only to employees, so there’s less waiting.
Clark-Pleasant schools’ clinic is being used about 75 percent of the time it’s open, so a teacher who wants to see a doctor typically can swing in during prep period or lunch and get checked out in less than a half-hour, according to Karen Canary, director of benefits and treasurer.
That employee doesn’t need to take half a day off and have a substitute cover the classroom, which is a secondary benefit of having quick clinic access, she said.
Employers who offer a free, in-house health clinic are getting back some savings in annual health insurance costs. Here’s a look at how the clinics are helping some local employers save money:
City of Greenwood
Annual estimate: $100,000 per year
June to present: Estimated $34,000 saved on prescriptions, labs and office visits
Savings in 2014
Doctor visits: $117,600
Labs and prescriptions: $30,810
Emergency room avoidance: $24,728
Physical therapy: $17,295
Occupational injuries: $74,840
Center Grove schools
Annual claim per employee