CCG Health & Wellness Center: Does it save money? - WRBL

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CCG Health & Wellness Center: Does it save money?

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COLUMBUS, Ga. -

The Columbus Consolidated Government Health and Wellness Center, or HWC, has been open for two weeks. Primary and urgent care is available for city employees, retirees and their dependents. Workers can sign-up for the "new health care" plan and get most of their medications, primary care visits and allergy care free and don't have to pay a co-payment.

The facility will use around $1 million taxpayer dollars annually to operate. City officials said the cost of healthcare has been rising 10 percent a year and the clinic is expected to save the city around 1.1 million dollars or break even.

But only around three-thousand citizens can take advantage of the services at the HWC. Employees pay 20-percent of the premium, which breaks down to $84 a month for a single person and $204 for family coverage. Compared to the private sector thought, workers on average pay 32 percent for family insurance, which works out to almost $430 a month.

"In general city salaries are lower than in the private sector and the balancing act there is to provide a benefit plan which may be a little bit better," said Tom Barron, administrator for the HWC. He explained that the clinic benefits taxpayers even if they can't use it.

Muscogee County is a self-insured city, meaning it pays medical claims itself. Around 23 million dollars is budgeted for it. The city spends about $600,000 annually for family doctors under the HMO plan. Seventy-eight percent of employees are enrolled in the plan.

Barron said if 1,600 patients participate in the new plan it will save the city around $2 million in claims. Barron is confident the city will meet that quota and eventually 90 percent of employees will switch over to the new plan.. Half of the money will be used to run the facility.

Barron also said it will help employees with chronic diseases stay healthy and therefore increase work productivity. "The advantage of getting the conditions under control is that it reduces the overall cost. It keeps them out of the emergency room helps keep them out of the hospital."

Dr. Bruce Hochstadt is a partner at Mercer, a worldwide consulting company. He also leads their work site clinic consulting practice. He said one disadvantage to employee centers is that it takes business away from local doctors.

About five years ago Dr. Hochstadt said more employee clinics failed. But a 2012 survey shows almost a third of employers with 500 or more employees offer an on-site or near-site health clinics. He said it takes a lot for their success. "If a clinic is under-utilized that's usually a hallmark for failure."

Dr. Hochstadt said superior customer service, assurance of privacy, and strong leadership support help a clinic succeed. "Everyone is going to compare it to what is it like compared to by doctor's office or clinic I use in the community and if the work-site clinic... is a better experience they're going to go there."

The HWC is open from 9-5PM on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. On Tuesdays and Thursdays it will open at 7 AM for blood tests. The center is located on the fourth floor of the 2000 building of the 10th Ave Medical Park Plaza.

Sydney Cameron

Sydney joined the WRBL news team in December 2011 after working as a freelance reporter in Washington, D.C. More>>

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