KINGSPORT — After another month of further investigation and review, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen agreed last week to move forward with establishing a health and wellness clinic for its employees.
The facility would allow employees and their dependents to see a doctor or a nurse, for general health care needs, without the cost of the co-pay, and is being pushed by city officials as a way to improve wellness and help control health care costs for the city’s 725 employees.
The idea first came before the BMA back in January, proposing that Kingsport create a 1,500- to 2,000-square-foot doctor’s office, staffed with a general practice doctor and nurse and for CareHere — a Brentwood, Tenn.-based health management company — to oversee the management of the facility.
The facility would be like any other doctor’s office, open 40 hours a week and offering such services as blood tests, EKGs, physicals, wellness services and disease management. The clinic would administer mostly generic drugs and patients would be able to schedule a 20-minute visit with the doctor.
The services would be at no charge to the employees. City officials say the venture would save the city money by reducing the number of visits to the emergency room and urgent care facilities, both of which are much costlier options for the city.
“Around 20 percent of (city) employees don’t have a primary care provider and go to urgent care facilities for the most part, which charge $200 to $300. The emergency room costs at least $500,” said Alderman Mike McIntire. “This gives us a way to take care of those issues before they get serious.”
After the Times-News reported on the clinic in January, the BMA and city received numerous calls and questions about the proposal, specifically the “free of charge” description attributed to the facility during the initial presentation.
At that time, the BMA decided to hold off on establishing a budget for the facility and approving the contract with CareHere in order to allow McIntire and Alderman Tom Segelhorst to further investigate the proposal and return with a recommendation.
During a BMA work session last week, the two aldermen returned with a positive recommendation.
McIntire said a better description for the proposal would be a “no co-pay” system, and not free given that employees already have “skin in the game” and pay 28 to 33 percent of their health insurance currently.
McIntire continued by saying the proposed model has been proven in other cities, such as Knoxville, Chattanooga and Morristown, as an effective way to reduce overtime, absences and time away from work for appointments.
The aldermen’s recommendation called for Kingsport to contract with CareHere for two years with a three-year extension option. By doing this, the projected savings is around $200,000 a year. During its regular meeting Tuesday night the BMA went with the recommendation and earmarked $150,000 for the services.
McIntire said the city would also explore the possibility of bringing into the program the non-teacher employees from the Kingsport City Schools system.
Kingsport has looked at a number of locations for the clinic, including the old Highway Patrol building on Fort Henry Drive, but one has not been chosen. An opening date has not been determined.