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Is an Employer Health Clinic Right for Your Organization?

If you haven’t noticed, another employer healthcare movement is underfoot in Vermont, a trend that is also underway nationally.  A number of employers are banding together to create their own health clinics for their employees and spouses.

You might ask, why?  Why would employers ever want to get involved in the actual delivery of healthcare?  I think the answer is no employer really wants to get into healthcare delivery.  The better question is:  Can employers get more for their healthcare dollars and offer better care to their employees and dependents through a health clinic?

And the answer to that question, for many employers, is yes. 

For those of you who know us well, you know that we at HBHRIQ have been talking about employer clinics for a few years now and that it was a trend both worth watching and considering.  Well, now it’s happening here in Vermont and for those not yet involved, this will provide a local opportunity to see the difference.  Why now?  I think what it took was what I call hitting the “Enough Already” bar on the fed-up continuum of offering healthcare benefits.

Enough employers have now hit and exceeded that bar that they are willing to band together and do things differently.  What’s the phrase?  Necessity is the mother of invention?  Well, that certainly holds true in healthcare as organizations are finding it a necessity to do something differently.

Ok, so what does this mean and what does it look like?  It means that employers are jointly paying for a health center that is open only to their collective employees and spouses.  Appointments are longer.  There are no wait times.  Coaching is provided.  Lab work can be done.  Mental health counseling is an option. 

Essentially an employer health center provides primary care services in a setting that is not fee-for-service and therefore frees the providers to provide care far beyond what’s absolutely necessary as is often done in a traditional setting.  And this is no knock on traditional primary care doctors (PCPs) in our state; they are perhaps the most overworked and underpaid members of the current health care system.  They are, by and large, completely dedicated to their patients, but the demands and dysfunction of the system often keep them from providing the care they’d like to offer.  Importantly, note that the health centers are not meant to replace someone’s PCP – they are meant to supplement.

That said, a health center eliminates the health system’s barriers and not only is the care often better because of the time being spent with patients, but it also leads to lower costs because conditions are caught sooner, behaviors are changed more quickly and costly specialist visits are eliminated. 

As many of you have heard us say, the idea is that rather than an employer having terms dictated to them by providers and health insurance carriers, that employers now start dictating the terms.  And results have proven out this is a better approach for employers whose rates are based on their own claims.

Consider this a primer on