Chesterton Tribune



County moves forward with wellness clinics for county workers

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The Porter County Board of Commissioners heard the results of a request for proposals it released in April asking for proposals for an employee wellness clinic on Tuesday.

Tony Bontrager of R.E. Sutton was on hand to discuss the proposals. Bontrager reported that many employers are implementing wellness clinics as a cost saving measure for employees and for the employer. Clinics allow employees and covered dependents to get primary care, routine lab work, and generic drugs at no cost to them, the idea being that more accessible preventative care saves on the cost of insurance claims long-term. Clinics also save money by buying generic drugs directly from the manufacturer and paying providers a salary rather than on a fee-for-service basis. The only hitch, Bontrager says, is the wellness clinic model of employer healthcare only saves money if people use it enough.

Six vendors responded to the RFP, and Bontrager conducted a further review of three that met the criteria best--Franciscan Alliance, Wellness for Life, and Workforce Health. Bontrager said Workforce Health is used at some schools in Porter County, and there is the potential to tap into a reciprocity agreement that would allow employees to go to many sites.

Ultimately, Bontrager recommended Franciscan Alliance for the following reasons: Franciscan would cover primary care, urgent care, disease management and wellness education programs, they offer a patient navigator that helps patients choose where to go in the event that they need to be refereed outside the clinic, there is no requirement that employees go to another Franciscan facility, and Franciscan has offered to charge the County only for 60 percent of the covered employees for the first six months of the agreement to provide time for employees to get used to the service and use it more. Franciscan is also willing to offer a pilot program for fifteen employees to test out the effectiveness of enhanced wellness services.

Franciscan’s clinics have a number of generic drugs available, but do not provide any narcotics, and any medications they don’t provide will need to be obtained from an outside pharmacy. They won’t see children under two years old. Franciscan has proposed two existing locations for the agreementÑone on Willowcreek Road in Portage and one on Lincolnway and U.S. 2 in Valparaiso. There would be no construction costs associated with this agreement, and the existing clinics are open Monday to Sunday.

Commissioner President Jeff Good, R-Center, said it’s more cost effective to enter into an agreement with a provider that has an existing network. “We were taking a strong look at doing something in our own building. Once we started the RFP, it became clear that the sticks and stones are already out there, and there wasn’t a need for the county to enter into that,” he said.

Good said the County has a history of high insurance costs, and the Board is trying to reduce both the County’s and individual expenses. “This is where we’re really gonna need the employees of Porter County to really step up and help in this,” he said. “We need to get to a 60 percent participation, so we can continue to drive our health insurance premiums down even more.”

“The Commissioners are trying to do our part in driving the costs down. Employees are gonna have to do their part. This is a great program. It’s not one most employers offer to their employees whether in government or the private sector,” said Commissioner Jim Biggs, R-North. “I think it’s really in the best interest of all the county employees to take advantage of it.”

Commissioner Laura Blaney, D-South, noted that even if the prescription someone needs isn’t available at the clinic, employees still get a free doctor visit and a prescription out of it. They simply have to go elsewhere for the medication, and no one has to give up their current doctor.

Biggs further said his family visits wellness clinics through his current insurance. “It’s very convenient. You’re seen immediately in most cases. If they cannot dispense the drug there, they write you a prescription and you’re off to another pharmacy.”

The Board opted to move forward on a contract with Franciscan that will include an outreach and enrollment plan. After that, the contract and cost will need to be reviewed and approved by the County Council to go forward.

County Attorney Scott McClure said the six months of reduced rate is a boon for the County, but also an incentive for Franciscan to help shoulder the burden of attracting County employees to the service. “Going forward, everyone should have significant reason to make this work.”




Posted 9/21/2018




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