National Headlines

Corporate Medicine:Corporations Take Healthcare Into Own Hands

Source: primary care health insurance

The health insurance market continues to evolve as new players, including Walgreens and private health insurance exchanges get involved in offering health insurance. The nation’s largest drugstore chain, is planning to start selling health insurance to customers this fall.

Walgreens (WAG, Fortune 500) has not acknowledged the plan publicly but it is beeing speculated at CNN Money that Walgreen’s will sell health insurance products with different price ranges and coverage levels from coast-to-coast through a private health insurance exchange.

These private exchanges will be in competition with the federally mandated state-based health insurance exchanges that are currently under construction.

“We’re looking at a number of options in light of health care reform as we continue to seek ways to help our customers better navigate today’s health care system. However, it would not be accurate to say that a decision has been made regarding any of the options available to us,” a Walgreens spokesman said.

As the health insurance sector begins to grapple with health care reform, an individual mandate, and new employer requirments some of those larger employers are starting to get in the game as well. Intel and Michelin are among a growing group of large companies that are building their own clinics and developing their own health care relationships.

Yes, corporate America is going clinical. Intel and Michelin are just two prominent companies who are taking the lead in streamlining health care in hopes of reducing health care costs for their employees and the bottom line.

Later this year, Intel will open its own medical clinics on campuses in Hillsboro, Ore., and in Rio Rancho, N. M., hiring its own doctors and staff to care for the 9,000 or so employees who work there. The goal? Lower insurance costs, improved employee health and higher productivity. “I don’t think anyone thinks that anything is going to happen with health reform and a lot of employers are rethinking their overall strategy,” says Marne Bell to CNN. Bell is a senior consultant at Towers Watson, a New York HR consulting firm that has found a dramatic increase in interest in clinics this year.

This solution is not cheap, but Intel and the others are banking that they can do it more effectively. The clinics are no small investment. Each clinic cost Intel about $1 million to build and another $1.5 million to operate. The chipmaker managed to break even on those operating costs at its first two clinics in Arizona. “For every dollar you spend, you save $2 to $3 but it may take two to three years,” says Bell at Towers Watson.

Towers Watson’s research indicates that nearly a quarter of the 588 large companies they surveyed this year already have on-site medical clinics for both factory and office workers, and next year, another 12% of those corporations will open new clinics for employees.

For years, workplace clinics consisted of a broom closet stocked with aspirin and Band-aids. But as corporate America saw double digit health care cost increases — employers pay 36% more today than they did five years ago — companies are betting on long-term cost savings with their own clinics staffed with physician assitants, nurse practitioners and sometimes even chiropractors, physical therapists and pharmacists.

Michelin North America is another erxample. The company earlier this year opened a medical clinic on its campus in Greenville, S.C. and Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) opened one in Palo Alto, California.


Categories: National Headlines

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