By Michael Booth, The Denver Post
CENTENNIAL, CO — Brad Moorman turned 40 this year, a time to think harder about cholesterol levels and prostate checkups and other boring-but-vital “maintenance” worries. He procrastinated.
Now his bosses have made it much easier to do the right thing.
Out the back door of AlloSource, just a couple of steps down the sidewalk, is the brand-new company health clinic.
AlloSource employees, from the hourly-wage Moorman to CEO Tom Cycyota, stroll in during breaks to see a doctor or nurse practitioner, passing a closet-sized medicine dispensary on the way in.
They can come for wellness checks with on-site lab results, strep-throat cultures, antibiotic prescriptions or sprained ankles. With extended hours and an open plan, employees bring sick kids for ear checks or spouses with skin rashes.
Moorman didn’t love the advice to eat healthier, but he appreciates the convenience. “It’s such a huge perk,” he said. “I would have put all this stuff off if it wasn’t here.”
AlloSource, a nonprofit clearinghouse for donated medical tissue and bones, this fall joined a growing list of medium to large job sites adding clinics for employees. Employers slammed by double-digit health insurance hikes want to control medical costs, while also keeping employees more efficient — no more need to take a half-day off for faraway appointments.
A study by Mercer benefits consultants showed 15 percent of companies with 500 to 4,999 employees had workplace clinics in 2012, and 11 percent more planned to add them. Thirty-seven percent of employers with at least 5,000 staffers had on-site clinics, up from 32 percent.
The new emphasis on primary care at work supports the trend toward greater wellness rewards — and penalties — embedded in employee insurance plans. Employees can get thousands of dollars in health discounts for meeting wellness goals such as quitting smoking or joining a fitness class.
Other employers have added a stick: Take benchmark screenings for health measures such as weight, blood sugar and blood pressure, and face paying more if the measures slide.
“The organization will get healthier overall, so the use of insurance will go down over a period of time,” Cycyota said. “So we think in this next year, we may not save any money, it’s break-even.” The effects of the wellness benchmarks and reward/penalty system add up over time, though, he added.
“Three years down the road, we could save a couple hundred thousand dollars a year” in overall benefit costs, he said.
AlloSource’s small clinic is managed by CareHere, a Tennessee corporation that manages other locations in Colorado and in dozens of other states. Major health-related companies also are jumping into the model, with Denver-based DaVita HealthCare Partners subsidiary Paladina Health winning contracts to manage primary care for employers.
Paladina has opened an on-site clinic for Spectranetics in Colorado Springs. CareHere has opened a location at a Colorado Springs car dealership, among others in Colorado.
The idea has been around since before the 1930s and ’40s, when the predecessor of Kaiser Permanente began offering on-site health care at massive construction projects, said Deborah Chollet, senior fellow in health at Mathematica Policy Research.
“There’s a long history of this,” Chollet said. “By and large, the workers will vote with their feet. If they use it, clearly they are happy to have it there.”
The greatest cost savings to the company is in less time lost from work, she added. They can access an appointment on a lunch break, and they can also avoid long waits at a commercial pharmacy or fit in a child’s appointment when it’s convenient for the family.
Companies offer different financial models for the in-house clinics. AlloSource is partially self-insured for smaller claims, and has high-deductible or preferred-provider plan designs. Wellness checks and benchmarks at the in-house clinic are usually free; employees on a higher-cost preferred-provider plan will get other services, such as a strep test, for free; those choosing the high-deductible plan with a health savings account might pay a $25 co-pay for treatment or medicine.
Employees are encouraged to keep their own specialists or family doctors for long-term concerns or relationships. Some employees use the convenience of on-site blood draws and labs, then have results sent to their outside doctors.
Most employers and employees do run through a checklist of possible drawbacks to the in-house model — privacy issues, feelings of a “company town” atmosphere, trying to manage too much of an employee’s life.
“You are involved in your employees’ lives in a way you may or may not want to be,” Chollet said.
Employees seem to appreciate the clinics, said Bill Lindsay, president of the consulting firm Lockton Employee Benefits Group. By making some things free, and putting up privacy firewalls, he noted, employers may actually lose some valuable information about workers’ medical claims and trends.
Moorman notes the open floor plan of the AlloSource waiting room, and wonders whether he’d go there for an extremely private issue. Company officials say they’ll listen to concerns and make changes if they need to.
The 400-plus employees at AlloSource appear to have taken quickly to the new clinic, the entrance of which faces the back parking lot and undeveloped office-park space near Arapahoe Road. When CEO Cycyota needed his wellness checkup, he had to wait a few days to squeeze in the appointment.
“There is no risk to the organization,” he said of the new clinic. “The only downside is we had to give up space in our building to house them.”