EC eyeing opening health clinic for city workers


By Jon Hawley
Staff Writer

Friday, January 11, 2019

Elizabeth City officials are looking at opening a health clinic for city employees, saying it will both improve their access to care and hold down health insurance costs.

The city is advertising now to recruit organizations to offer an employee health care clinic. One group has responded so far, City Manager Rich Olson said Thursday. He declined to identify the applicant before the deadline for responses, which is Jan. 31.

According to the city's notice, published in last Friday's edition of The Daily Advance, the clinic would provide services including, but not limited to: general health screenings, lab services, injections and immunizations, management of workplace injuries, and wellness training. The clinic operator would also take walk-ins, and service would be offered to retirees and employees' dependents as well, Olson said.

The clinic’s care would be free for employees, retirees and their dependents, he added.

There are different ways the clinic could be set up and staffed, Olson said, but it would offer the services of a nurse practitioner or physician assistant at minimum. One of those is needed to write prescriptions, he said.

The clinic could cost $200,000 or more, Olson said. Those costs are primarily salaries, as the clinic would use an existing space. He said the expense could be justified by helping improve employees' access to care, and ultimately their productivity, and help hold down health insurance costs.

“I don't want my employees sitting for an hour, two hours, at urgent care,” Olson said Thursday.

He also noted the city is trying to hold down visits to the emergency department, which are costly and sometimes not the best place to get care, and hold down the city’s overall health insurance costs.

Last week, Olson reported that just 82 employees have used the emergency department 272 times since July 1, the start of this budget year, costing the city almost $164,000.

Despite those costs, the city is “trending in the right direction” for insurance costs, Olson said. For the budget year to date, employee health claims have cost roughly $1.9 million, while the city has paid $2.4 million in premiums.

That works out to a “medical loss ratio” of about 78 percent, which means the city's insurer, the NC League of Municipalities, shouldn't have lost money on covering employees this year.

The city is expecting to get its health insurance quote for next year by next month, Olson said, and he's hoping this year's claims will prompt the NCLM to reduce the city’s premiums.

Reduced premiums would help offset the costs of the clinic. The city could also seek wellness-related grants for it as well, Olson said.

The city provides health insurance coverage to more than 300 employees and retirees, according to Olson.