A contract with a new health care provider will mean reduced costs for Oklahoma County employees and could save the county some money as well.
County employees who seek treatment at the new IMWell Health clinic will have no co-pay or deductible obligations, said Jon Wilkerson, county director of human resources, benefits and payroll.
The trade-off is these employees will have an incentive to undergo wellness checks that could make the employee population healthier, thus reducing emergency room visits, inpatient treatment and, subsequently, the self-insured county's annual list of claims payouts, he said.
“We expect to see an uptick in our outpatient professional costs, but by connecting part of our population with treatment through the IMWell Clinic we hope to see chronic conditions better managed,” he said.
The county signed a one-year contract with the Arkansas-based company this spring. IMWell is currently remodeling the bottom floor of an office complex at 136 NW 10 into its first Oklahoma City clinic.
IMWell currently provides similar service to employees of the police department in Tulsa and will be developing similar contracts with private and public entities in Oklahoma beyond the county, said Dan Matthews, human resources director.
At least two metro-area municipalities are considering similar programs with IMWell, Matthews said.
Four signed for clinic
Dr. Amanda Thomas, currently a family physician at Integris Baptist Medical Center, will staff the new clinic. IMWell also hired a physician's assistant and two medical assistants to support Thomas, with opening planned for July 2.
“They have a phone number established and they're already getting phone calls from people making appointments,” Matthews said. “We're all very comfortable with the progress and that we'll open on time.”
The clinic is the end result of a two-year study of the county's health care costs, Wilkerson said. The county studied several clinic models and care delivery systems, both public and private, before opting to sign the new contract.
The problem was increasing claim costs for the county, Matthews said. Medical and prescription claims for Oklahoma County increased by $3.1 million — a total of 28 percent — from fiscal years 2008-09 to 2009-10. The following year, claims increased by $1.2 million, a total of 8 percent, he said.
This year, thanks to a redesigned benefit plan, those claims were actually reduced by $959,000, or 6 percent.
“But we were on an unsustainable track,” Matthews said. “At some point we had to do something — either cut benefits or possibly get out of the health care option altogether.”
Nearly 1,600 county employees will be eligible for the plan, Wilkerson said. Including relatives and dependents, about 3,000 total will be eligible to seek treatment at the clinic.
The clinic will provide acute diagnoses and care for illnesses, and lab work and injections just like any other family practice, he said. Clinic staff will specialize in chronic disease management.
Oklahoma County workers will be screened for chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension, and those who may be susceptible to long-term conditions will be provided a course for treatment and management, Wilkerson said.
The county will pay a month of health care premiums for each employee that opts to undergo an initial wellness assessment, he said. Participation is optional.
“Our goal is not to make people switch doctors at all,” he said. “If you already have a good doctor-patient relationship, that's what we want. We're just encouraging those people who don't to get engaged.”