ST. CLAIR COUNTY
A new health-care plan for St. Clair County employees is intended to save the county more than $1 million a year while providing its employees with no copays or deductibles and affordable medicine.
An agreement with CareHere, a healthcare provider that provides in-house primary care services for large organizations mostly in the public sector, was approved this week by the County Board providing $64,453 in start-up funds.
County Board Chairman Mark Kern said bringing CareHere to St. Clair County is projected to save the county an estimated $1.04 million in gross savings and $413,250 in net savings on the county’s medical plan.
“It’s a win-win for the county,” he said after the board’s approval of the agreement. “It makes sense on both sides.”
Through the agreement, CareHere will open a clinic inside the county Health Department inside the St. Clair County Building, where two exam rooms will be retrofitted through use of the start-up funds.
The clinic will be similar to an urgent care, with a doctor and nurse on staff during business hours.
In the long term, the county will pay CareHere a management fee of $23 per employee and retiree per month, plus operational costs. St. Clair County employs roughly 1,000 people.
Director of Human Resources Frank Bergman, who manages the plan for the county, said county employees will be getting better service without having to pay more.
“By spending through CareHere centers, as opposed to going to the other places there are significant savings through office visits and copays,” he said,” and there is no charge to the employees.”
He added, that over time, the county expects cost savings to grow as the program becomes more popular.
“That number will grow as utilization grows,” Bergman said. “It will be a big win for the county and employees.”
COMPANY PROVIDES WIDE RANGE OF SERVICES
CareHere provides a large range of healthcare services to the county, including chronic illness evaluation, treatment and management, treatment of acute conditions, lab testing, medication dispensing, treatment for work-related injuries, physicals, drug testing and ordinary or routine care.
JeNelle Gouvas, CareHere’s business development manager, said savings will come through easier access to healthcare and no copays or deductions.
“The great thing for the county is that they can take advantage of our volume discounts,” she said. “Because we have over 200 health centers across the country we can get fantastic discounts on labs and also on medication and we pass those costs straight through to the county without any markups.”
She added that the company focuses on catching health issues in employees early.
Kern said keeping employees healthy through early detection and ongoing, on-site care also not only help cut healthcare costs and boost productivity but also make the county a healthier place to work.
“This will not only be a great program for our employees — giving them convenience and healthcare — but it will also maybe get them over there before they get sick or in the early stages,” he said.
In Tennessee, where CareHere is based, Washington County opened a clinic for county employees that helped the county avoid $664,186 in healthcare costs, according to a Johnson City Press article.
Records also showed at least 95.7 percent of employees visited the facility “at least once” in 2018.
The county hasn’t announced when the clinic will open to employees.