Fifth state employee clinic in Montana to open in Butte, will also serve city-county employees

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HELENA, Montana — A fifth state employee health clinic is scheduled to open next month in Butte, state officials said.

The clinic will offer basic health care and wellness services without a co-payment to state workers in Butte, Anaconda and Deer Lodge, along with about 380 Butte-Silver Bow city-county government employees, Lee Newspapers of Montana reports.

The clinic — like those in Helena, Billings, Missoula and Miles City — are operated by CareHere of Brentwood, Tennessee. The state pays CareHere $18 per month per person, a per-visit fee and covers other expenses. Butte-Silver Bow's self-insured program will participate at the same cost.

Some medical providers in the Butte area are concerned that the new clinic will create unfair competition by diverting insured patients from private clinics, but state officials say many state employees don't see a doctor on a regular basis.

Sheila Hogan, director of the state Department of Administration, said the state wants to work with local health care providers to offer complete health coverage for state workers and their dependents.

Ron Stormer, human resources director for Butte-Silver Bow's consolidated government, said he expects the arrangement with CareHere to save the self-insured plan money and improve workers' health.

However, Jessica Hoff, CEO of the Southwest Montana Community Health Center, said she's worried about the competition and wonders why the center wasn't given the opportunity to bid on providing services to state employees at its clinics in Butte and Dillon.

The state sought bids for its initial clinic in Helena in 2012 and said it planned to add other clinics in areas with high concentrations of state employees. CareHere won the bid.

The state clinics have also been opened to municipal workers whose self-insurance plans are administered by the Montana Municipal Interlocal Authority. Workers in East Helena, Helena and Miles City are the only ones with convenient access.

The Montana Association of Counties' group health plan, which covers employees of more than two dozen counties, is considering whether to have them use the state clinics, said Harold Blattie, the group's executive director.

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