The City of Charleston saved more than $1 million in healthcare costs since switching to a new clinic provider two years ago.
CareHere, which provides on-site healthcare through employers such as municipalities and state governments, manages a clinic for city employees and their family members at 601 Morris St.
Ben Baker, chief operating officer with CareHere, explained during City Council’s finance committee meeting on Monday that the Charleston clinic has seen positive results that usually aren’t apparent for several years.
“You’re actually out in front of all the facilities we operate,” he said. “Some things are occurring here that we don’t typically see until five or six years of a program — you’re already seeing it in two or three years.”
In the clinic’s first year, 900 city employees or their spouses completed a health risk assessment to give providers a baseline of their general health, which covers conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and obesity.
“The health risk assessment allows us to uncover brand new conditions that can be managed before they become a big problem... and we avoid a huge cost potential as well,” Baker said.
Between August 2014 and December 2015, 45 percent of people who completed the risk assessment saw their health improve.
“I’ve not seen that elsewhere in the country,” Baker said, noting the CareHere manages 200 facilities across the U.S.
Nearly 30 percent of patients maintained their quality of health during the same period.
Baker also noted that the clinic is booked to capacity roughly 97 percent of the time; over the last 18 months, nearly 13,000 appointments have been booked.
“Your employees have adopted and embraced this clinic at a rate that’s faster and more progressive than we see elsewhere. It means there’s a demand for this,” Baker said.
That goes a long way in terms of savings.
The roughly $50 cost of a clinic visit, compared to the market average of about $120 per visit, resulted in a savings of about $910,000 for the city, Baker said.
“There’s no markup in any services we provide. You pay us a fee to manage your clinic, and everything that happens inside that facility is at-cost,” he said.
The productivity savings is also considerable, he noted. Patients can be seen faster, which saves the city another $500,000, “instead of those folks taking time off and going and sitting in waiting rooms,” he said.
Among those who were interested in the clinic’s management was state Sen. Ed Gaunch (R-Kanawha).
“I think this is one of our shining lights here in the city,” Mayor Danny Jones said.
Also on Monday, Brian King, director of the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Community Development, presented an update to the Finance Committee on the 2016 Annual Action Plan, including the proposed project list for the next fiscal year on the city’s Community Development Block Grant recipients.
The office received $1.3 million from the federal government for the grants in Fiscal Year 2016-2017.
In other business Monday, Council voted to:
n Approve the purchase of five 2016 Harley-Davidson motorcycles for $40,600, and in exchange for five 2013 motorcycles the Charleston Police Department currently owns. They will be used by the department’s Traffic Division.
n Approved a bill relating to the laying of levies on real, personal and public utility property within the city, including excess levies previously provided for in the Fiscal Year 2016-2017 budget document. A statutory meeting to pass that bill will be held at 5:30 p.m. today in Council Chambers.
n Approved a resolution to recognize the month of May 2016 as National Bike Month and Bicycle Safety Month.