CLINTON — A medical clinic for Anderson County employees and their families is taking shape in a suite of offices formerly used for storage on the first floor of the courthouse.

When it launches March 8, the Thrive Health & Wellness Center is projected to have a profound effect on the county’s self-funded health insurance program, which now costs about $4 million a year.

“We could possibly have a drastic cut in health insurance premiums for the county and its employees,” said Connie Aytes, the county’s interim director of accounts and budgets.

In fact, said Anderson County Human Resources Director Russell Bearden, it’s projected there will be savings to Anderson County of nearly $2 million over the next five years.

For the county’s 503 employees and roughly 400 dependents on family health insurance, a big reduction in workers’ share of those monthly premiums may be on the horizon. Workers now pay $325 a month for family coverage. The county currently chips in $1,040 monthly per employee.

County workers and their dependents will be able to make appointments to receive a variety of medical services — as well as non-narcotic generic drug prescriptions — for free.

Treatment for everything from minor injuries to chronic health woes will be offered, and the clinic has an in-house lab.

Another benefit: with health and nutrition coaches available electronically, participants should become healthier if they take the experts’ advice.

Bearden says he intends to try to follow those coaches’ suggestions in a bid to improve his health.

The clinic is being operated by CareHere LLC, a company with some 180 clinics in 24 states.

Similar programs are in Johnson City, Kingsport, Memphis and Clarksville, Bearden said. “They’re saving some tremendous amounts,” he said.

CareHere also operates a clinic at AISIN Tennessee, an automotive parts maker that has a huge plant in the Clinton/Interstate 75 Industrial Park.

The attending physician there, Dr. Deborah Brooks, will also be providing medical services at the courthouse, where the clinic will at first be open only about 12 hours per week.

Bearden said with employees already making appointments, there may at first be a logjam of workers seeking medical attention.

In the planning stage for months, the clinic was launched with a $120,000 Anderson County appropriation for furnishings and another $120,000 allocated annually in operational costs.

The clinic should be paying for itself through reduced health insurance premiums within its first year of operation, Bearden said.

While he was human resources director at glass manufacturer Kimble-Chase in Rockwood, a similar clinic was put in place, and there was a resulting 31 percent drop in health insurance premiums, he said.

Original Article

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