GREENFIELD — A low-cost health clinic reserved for county employees is on the table again.
At a recent Hancock County Board of Commissioners meeting, Kevin Mandrell, who represents the county’s insurance company, Brown & Brown, presented a new option for county officials to consider — one geared toward providing county employees with readily available health care while potentially saving the county money in the long run.
For several years, county officials have weighed the option of setting up a health clinic for county employees as a way to curb long-term health care costs.
In 2010, the county hired a consultant to look into the concept of a health clinic. The following year, a plan was presented to open a clinic through Hancock Physician Network, but that plan ultimately was turned down by the Hancock County Council.
In 2013, Mandrell suggested the county consider partnering with Keihin IPT, which already had a clinic at its plant on New Road. County employees would have been able to use the clinic without having a copay, and generic prescriptions would have been free. That option also was turned down.
Now Mandrell is suggesting the county consider a plan that would allow for the county to have independent control of the clinic instead of entering into a partnership with another employer.
Proponents say an easy-access health clinic can lead to earlier diagnoses and employees leading healthier lifestyles — both of which could reduce county expenses associated with health care.
Mandrell suggested county officials work with Our Health, an Indianapolis-based health care company that helps employers set up health clinics for employees. Our Health would work with the county to establish a health clinic by equipping the space and operating it. The county would then staff the clinic.
Mandrell said the initial investment would be about $171,000 if the county uses a facility it already owns. The clinic would be between 1,200 and 1,500 square feet.
He suggested county officials staff a 40-hour-a-week nurse practitioner and a 12-hour-a-week physician.
Over time, the county would recoup the costs of the clinic, Mandrell said. By offering its own on-site clinic, the county would save on insurance costs associated with prescriptions and doctor visits, he said.
The clinic also would encourage preventive health care, Mandrell said. Regular, preventive health care can help doctors catch minor illnesses and diseases before they turn into big problems.
“We’re going to prevent those big train wrecks,” he said. “Maybe not today or tomorrow, but three years from now, five years from now. That’s what you want to look at.”
The commissioners and county attorney Ray Richardson have raised questions about the type of commitment the county would have to make and how popular employer-owned clinics are.
Mandrell said if the county decided the clinic wasn’t working well and officials weren’t seeing a return, the county could change its plan and offerings. And he said the clinics are becoming increasingly popular.
Our Health’s website shows it has health care clinics in Indiana, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Tennessee.
This year, Our Health partnered with the city of Indianapolis to offer health care clinics for the city’s eligible employees.
Commissioner Brad Armstrong said that since the initial meeting with Mandrell he’s been working to set up meetings with companies, organizations and stakeholders who need to be involved to make a clinic a reality.
If the county is going to act, now is the time to do so, he said. Over the years, officials have worked hard to cut back on insurance costs to the county while providing the best care for its employees, he added.
This year, the county has a surplus for health expenses that would help pay the costs of starting such a clinic, he said.
Still, the plans for a clinic are in their infancy; there’s a lot of work to be done and conversations to be had before any decisions are made, Armstrong said.
“The dollars and cents need to make sense,” he said. “Nothing is a done deal.”