Augusta Commission OKs city-financed health clinic

Sick or injured city employees will soon be able to visit a city-financed health clinic, after a Thursday Augusta Commission decision proponents expect will save the city up to $1 million in its first year.

In a 7-1 vote, with Comm­issioner Alvin Mason opposed, J.R. Hatney abstaining and Grady Smith absent, the group approved a selection committee’s recommendation of Healthstat, Inc., to run the clinic, in a location expected on city-owned property that’s yet to be determined.

Lisa Kelley of Wells Fargo Insurance Services, the city’s health insurance consultant, said in a presentation to commissioners that savings from the clinic would begin almost immediately, as it reduces spending and employees’ overall health improves.

Kelley said the city paid $1 million in claims last year for employees’ visits with medical specialists, often the wrong ones. “Your employees don’t know where to go,” she said.

With proper implementation, Kelley said the clinic will save $1 million the first year, even after the $550,000 annual cost of HealthStat, which the selection committee chose over bidder Health to You.

“It sounds like a very good deal to me,” Mayor Deke Copenhaver said, with Commissioner Bill Lockett asking how employees could be enticed to use the clinic.

Kelley said the best way was to make it free for all employees covered under the city’s health plan. Use of the clinic also will advance Augusta’s potential to become self-insured, a move that could save the city some of the $20 million it spends annually on employee health benefits, said Kelley, who also is evaluating when the city might adopt a self-funded health insurance pool rather than a provider such as Blue Cross Blue Shield.

“I think if we are going to look at going to self-insured, this is the way we are going to get there,” Commissioner Jerry Brigham said.

Commissioner Matt Aitken, who made the motion to approve the clinic, said his employer had an on-site clinic that worked well.

In other business, the commission delayed action on more than 100 pages of documents related to the new Augusta Convention Center parking deck. On a motion from Brigham, the group agreed to consider the documents at an upcoming Finance Committee
workshop.

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