As part of efforts to control health care costs, Oklahoma City is weighing whether to open its own employee medical center.
The city council on Tuesday is to consider asking health care companies for proposals for a downtown clinic that would serve employees and their families.
If the plan goes forward, Oklahoma City could join cities including Dallas, San Antonio and El Paso, Texas, that have opened clinics for employees.
Whether the city would save money is an open question, but officials are hopeful.
“We think this will drive down our health insurance costs,” said Dianna Berry, the city's personnel director.
Oklahoma City has 11,670 retirees, employees, spouses and dependents enrolled in its two health plans, Berry said. The cost to the city: about $62 million each year.
A clinic serving employees and their families could promote good health while closely monitoring the progress of those dealing with chronic illnesses or taking medications, Berry said.
One goal is for employees to get in quickly, be seen quickly and get back to work.
“It's a productivity issue,” Berry said.
The challenges are apparent. Among the 5,390 participants in the city's self-funded health insurance plan:
1,617, or 29.6 percent, have been diagnosed with hypertension.
770, or 14.1 percent, have been diagnosed with diabetes.
221, or 4 percent, are obese.
222, or 4.1 percent, have had a stroke.
645, or 11.8 percent, have high cholesterol issues.
607, or 11.1 percent, have been diagnosed with heart disease.
The city states in the documents seeking proposals that its goals include reducing reliance on emergency room and urgent care, providing access to reduced-cost primary care, and providing access to health coaching and care management.
San Antonio has an Employee Health + Wellness Center that offers physicals, preventive care, and treatment for conditions such as allergies, colds, minor injuries and diabetes. Medical records are stored electronically; employees who want to see their medical records have easy access.
Dallas has a clinic in its city hall that is available to employees, retirees younger than age 65, their spouses and dependent children ages 5 to 25. El Paso has four H2U Wellness Centers.
A memo from City Manager Jim Couch states 83 percent of Oklahoma City employees who responded to an internal survey indicated they would use an employee medical clinic if it would reduce their health insurance costs.
Berry said the city could encourage employees to use the clinic by, for example, reducing or eliminating co-pays.
The city's goal is to choose a provider by May 14, with hopes of opening a clinic by Jan. 1.
Employee health and wellness centers are part of a trend that began with private employers, Berry said.
“We are probably on the fairly front end of local governments that are looking at this,” she said. “We are constantly looking for ways to control the costs.”