By COLLIN BROOKS
Washington County will be adding an employee health clinic to serve their 420 employees, which will open in late September or early October. The clinic will be available for county employees and their eligible dependents.
The clinic will handle any of employees’ primary needs, just like their doctor would, except X-rays will not be available. The clinic’s services will also come at no cost to the employee and the change will take place in January, according to Washington County Benefits Coordinator Michelle Stewart. Employees may use the clinic free of charge or they can go to their own doctor and pay a co-pay of $35.
“We are really hoping that the clinic will help some of our clients with chronic health concerns like diabetes and high blood pressure —helping them better monitor that because they won’t have to pay a co-pay to go and see their physician,” Stewart said. “The goal is that the clinic not only does sick care, but we also have a focus on wellness.”
Being involved in the wellness program will save the employees out-of-pocket expenses because the program will allow them to pay $2,500 out of pocket instead of the $3,500 employees that aren’t enrolled in the wellness program will have to pay.
“The prevention, disease management and early intervention is really where we are going to see big savings, not just in dollars but in employee’s health and well-being,” Stewart said.
But the county will also save money with the change. The first year savings will be $133,541, with the savings to the employees — based on 45 percent of the employees using the clinic — estimated at $106,00, according to Stewart.
Projections for the first three years, provided by the insurance company, are said to be over $1 million for Washington County.
The first year of the new health clinic will be the most expensive for Washington County with a projected first year of operation cost at $334,452. That number does not include the $1,100 a month for the first three years of rent at 501 North Cherokee Street, Suite 3. The first year will also include $35,000 worth of start-up costs.
The building is located just behind the George Jaynes Justice Center, which was an ideal spot, according to Stewart, because of the large number of Washington County employees who live and work in the area.
The county is going with a CareHere Clinic vendor. Kingsport city and school employees share a CareHere clinic in the Model City.
Morristown and Hamblen county also have a CareHere Clinic while Johnson City is opening up a clinic in the fall.
“Employee clinics are just a way for employers to contain some costs,” Stewart said. “The easiest way that I have been able to explain it is that it is sort of like retail vs. wholesale. We can send our employees to the employee clinic, if they chose to go, and we are paying wholesale for that because we are paying someone to manage that. It’s retail if they go to their private physician because of mark-up and costs.”