City of Kansas City, MO, Employee Healthcare Trust Reduces ER Usage While Encouraging Healthy Lifestyles Through Wellness Program
Kansas City, MO (Dec. 19, 2011) — Emergency room visits by Kansas City, MO, employees and retirees are down 8% due largely to the City providing a free health clinic and a health education/wellness program.
“Because of lack of knowledge or timing of the health need, many employees were taking their health concerns to the emergency room regardless of the level of attention they needed,” said City of Kansas City Employee Healthcare Trust Chair and City Councilman John Sharp. “Medical charges for ER usage are usually more than three times higher than a typical doctor’s office visit. This is fine if you have a true emergency, not when you have a cold.”
The City worked with Blue Cross and Blue Shield (BCBS) to create a full-service employee health clinic for City staff, dependents and retirees who are enrolled in the BCBS plans.
The clinic, which is staffed by a nurse practitioner, offers a wide variety of medical services, such as urgent care walk-in, health risk assessments, allergy and medication management and preventive health services like screenings, vaccinations and examinations. The clinicalso gives referrals to wellness programs such as face-to-face coaching, disease management and nutritional counseling.
Located in the City Health Department at 2400 Troost, the clinic is easily accessible by car and public transportation. It is open 40 hours a week, from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. on most days, and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays. Patients who use the clinic do not pay a copay or a deductible, potentially saving them hundreds of dollars per year in added costs from unnecessary trips to the emergency room. The clinic currently has an average waiting time of less than 15 minutes. During its first year of operation, usage has increased 300%.
Additionally, BCBS provides the City an onsite customer service representative who meets with employees at various City facilities throughout the year.
In 2010, the City, with full support of the City Council and its labor unions, launched the self-funded option using BCBS as the provider with the assistance of consultants, Garry & Associates and the McDaniel Hazley Group.
The City launched an effort to more effectively communicate its health care benefits with City employees, educate employees about proper usage of these benefits and encourage participation in wellness programs to hold down health care rate increases. In fact, the City has recorded three years of no increases in employee monthly charges for health care coverage.
The City uses an integrated communications plan consisting of print and electronically distributed materials to inform employees and retirees about the clinic and available resources.
“The City provides its employees and retirees a solid package of health care benefits,” said Sharp. “Our mission has been to educate the employees in engaging ways. They benefit by getting healthier. The City benefits by keeping costs down. It is a win-win situation.”
About the City of Kansas City Employee Healthcare Trust: Formed in 2009, the Trust administers the City's partially self-funded healthcare plan, which includes a full-service employee health clinic for City staff, dependents and retirees who are enrolled in any of the City's Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City health plans. The Trust is managed by an 11-member Board of Trustees created by ordinance that includes representatives from the City's three recognized labor groups, the City's management group, City Council members and the City Manager. The health clinic provides urgent walk-in care, health risk assessments, allergy and medication management, wellness programs and preventive health services.
About Garry & Associates: Established in 1925 and purchased in 1986 by Joshua K. Garry and Joseph D. Timmons, the company has grown to a full-service independent insurance agency. Currently, Garry & Associates serves the insurance needs of about 1,300 individuals and families, and the insurance needs of 175 business concerns in Kansas City and surrounding communities.
About The McDaniel Hazley Group: The McDaniel Hazley Group is a minority-owned business with over 50 years of experience in providing employee benefit services including health plans, dental and vision care, life insurance, disability and long-term care coverage. The firm currently provides employee benefit services to more than 100 business and governmental clients in the greater Kansas City area.