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Parish hoping clinic for employees reduces long-term health costs

Last Modified: Sunday, August 17, 2014 12:51 PM

By John Guidroz / American Press

The medical and wellness clinic for Calcasieu Parish employees has been open for more than a year. Its mission, officials said, is educating patients on healthy living and ultimately preventing chronic health problems like diabetes and hypertension.

Health Connection, at 1106 Ryan St., is open 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday. It has been open since January 2013. Dr. Van Snider is the clinic’s physician.

Jerry Milner, the parish’s finance director, said the clinic was set up to reduce the cost of pharmacy and medical claims over the long term by stressing preventive care. One goal is to “be below the trend of inflation,” and he said progress is already being made.

The combined costs for medical and pharmacy claims for 2012 was $8.37 million. With a medical inflation rate of 7.5 percent, the projected amount for claims during 2013 was just over $9 million. The actual medical claims for the year was $8.58 million, an increase of nearly 5 percent, he said.

This year, the projected amount for claims totals $9.58 million, which includes an adjusted inflation rate of 6.5 percent. As of August, the projected actual claims totals $9.06 million, an increase of 5.84 percent, Milner said.

“We’re not having as good of a year in medical claims, but we’re projecting below trend,” he said. “We’re having a lot of cancer this year. Cancer is not one of those things that is going to be immediately affected by preventative care. You can’t budget for those.”

Milner said it could take up to four years before the clinic “ends up paying for itself totally.” Next year, he said, the parish will cover testing for spouses of parish employees.

“These are lifestyle changes,” Milner said. “It’s not an immediate process.”

Laura Bolton, the parish’s director of risk management, said the benefit levels have changed, and that employees get a discount through Health Connection. She said the parish also has a new pharmacy benefit manager who works with the clinic “to get the best-quality and most cost-effective prescriptions to be written for the members.”

‘Getting longer time’

Bolton said about “65 percent of members,” including employees, spouses and dependent children, are registered patients with the clinic. Milner said the initial goal was having 50 percent of members registered by year two.

The clinic sees 16 patients per day, Bolton said. But the focus is more on the quality of the visit, rather than how many patients are seen.

“They are getting longer time with the physician,” she said. “They can really discuss any other issues besides just going in there with a cold.”

Snider said that spending more time with patients often convinces them to get certain screenings done.

“We’re beginning to find cancers that really, probably would not have been diagnosed had we not been a little more aggressive,” he said. “But we’re finding them at an earlier stage, so they’re easier to treat.”

The parish has been self-insured since 1992. Milner said the parish covers the first $200,000 in individual claims per year.

“If we can get those costs to go down, that savings helps us to sustain the health fund,” he said.

‘Savings across board’

Bolton said the clinic is also used for physical exams for those wanting to obtain a commercial driver’s license and for workers’ compensation.

“There’s savings across the board because we used to have to send that out or pay another facility to handle that,” she said.

Snider said he was “very impressed with the level of benefits that the parish offers its employees.” He said it is also taking steps to maintain those benefits.

“If you look nationally, you see the cost of health care to businesses or municipalities going up every year,” he said. “So, if you don’t begin to be proactive in doing things for your employees that ultimately will help contain costs, then most industries and businesses will begin to reduce benefits.”

Since Moss Regional entered into a public-private partnership with Lake Charles Memorial Hospital last year, Snider said the clinic has taken over some of Moss’ duties. The clinic now oversees medical services at the Calcasieu Correctional Center, the Calcasieu Sheriff’s Prison and the parish Juvenile Detention Center.


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