LAND O’ LAKES — Employee health clinics that the Pasco County school district began opening more than three years ago have been so successful — saving the district about $14 million in health-care spending — that more clinics could be in the offing, district officials say.
“I think this is one of the most significant decisions this board has made in terms of employee well-being and containing costs,” board member Joanne Hurley said at a recent board workshop.
Four clinics, operated under a contract with Tennessee-based CareHere, now provide school district employees with access to physicians and prescription medicine. The district opened the first clinic in January 2011 at district headquarters in Land O’ Lakes as part of an effort to curb the rising costs of providing health coverage.
The other three clinics are at Centennial Middle near Dade City, Gulf High in New Port Richey and Hudson High. District officials say they want to put a fifth clinic in Wesley Chapel and could partner with the Pasco sheriff’s office to open a sixth clinic, possibly in the Trinity area.
A representative from the sheriff’s office attended the board workshop to hear a presentation from John Watson, director of Florida operations for CareHere.
The clinics provide a less expensive and, for some employees at least, more convenient way to schedule a doctor’s appointment. They can be used by employees, retirees and dependents who are covered through the district’s group health plan.
Employees aren’t required to use the clinics and can still visit their personal physicians instead.
Savings come in several ways. Group health insurance usually is handled with a fee-for-services model. The more services the doctor provides during a visit, the greater the bill to the insurance company. Those costs are passed along to the employer and employees.
With CareHere, the school district is paying a flat fee for the service.
In addition, when a clinic is at or near the workplace, employees spend less time away from the job for an appointment.
Savings also happen when patients avoid high-price medications by using the mostly generic products available in the clinics’ pharmacies. CareHere determined which medications to offer in the pharmacies by reviewing the health histories of school employees.
Watson reported that in the first year the clinics handled 26,146 visits from school district employees, dependents or retirees. In 2013, that number jumped to 45,660 visits for the year.