From American City & County

Larryy

Health insurance plans for local governments are typically thousands of dollars more expensive than those in the private sector.  Consequently, providing quality healthcare for the many specialized employees within municipal workforces requires a unique solution.

The cities of Plantation, Fla. and Rockford, Ill. are two examples of municipal governments that are going beyond the traditional healthcare delivery model and bringing healthcare directly to their members, combining worksite clinical care with total population health management. Under this model, public employers use cutting-edge analytics to categorize risk within their covered population, identify and engage those that are at highest risk, and provide personalized care and coaching to improve health outcomes. The model empowers patients and employers creating a great patient experience, improved health outcomes, and lower total claims costs.

Proactive, accessible healthcare pays off

Healthy employees cost less, and the best way to maintain a workforce’s wellbeing is to get ahead of health issues before they occur. From acute care to chronic illness coaching, worksite health clinics offer municipal workers access to a dedicated team of clinicians who are able to coach them through individualized health improvement plans. These plans factor in population health data to identify the health trends of a workforce, and address the environmental factors that could be causing adverse outcomes.

This hands-on, data-driven form of healthcare informs smart spending, and convenient onsite access makes adopting this approach simple and straight-forward – the way healthcare should be. For example, after Rockford implemented an onsite health center of its own, its employees benefited from easy access to dedicated, on-site clinicians to coach them toward taking control of their health, and improving their overall quality of life. Not only did this save the municipality more than $900,000 per year in healthcare spending, it did so without an added cost to employees.

The unique needs of first responders

For emergency response employees like firefighters, police and paramedics, the high-stress, and potentially traumatic nature of their daily work can create long-term impacts to mental health. To address this, onsite population health management also gives municipalities the option to provide employees with access to licensed clinical counselors to address illnesses like depression, anxiety and substance abuse, and continue to monitor progress on an ongoing basis. The sad fact that more first-responders die each year from suicide than during active duty emphasizes the need for action through making these resources easily accessible. In these high-stakes jobs, improving the mental health of employees is also vital as a third-party risk-management strategy.

The power of the grapevine

Onsite healthcare also has the power to trigger widespread change by aligning care with other health plan incentives to create a health-focused workplace culture. Over the course of an eight-year relationship with a worksite clinic, Plantation has achieved a 96 percent employee engagement rate in onsite healthcare services, coupled with a 92 percent engagement rate in the same services by employees’ spouses. Creating a network of support and accountability encourages consistent use of onsite resources, helping employees to address and manage health issues before they become chronic, and create negative long-terms impacts to overall health.

Approximately 84 percent of Plantation’s at-risk employees have made progress on at least one of their risk factors through ongoing engagement, which has resulted in a significant return-on-investment roughly six times the cost of implementation. When employees feel empowered to put their health first, they’ll save employers the costs associated with reactive care.

While healthcare spending has long been a local government issue from an expense standpoint, health and wellness issues are now becoming a priority for local governments. Instead of waiting for the answer to come from Washington, local governments like Plantation and Rockford are starting with their own health funds and their own plan members and leading by example. Cities and counties are in the business of building healthy communities, and by delivering improved care to their employee communities, these local governments are improving the health of their overall community.

Larry Morrissey is the vice president of government relations and government sales at Marathon Health. Prior to his current role, he served three terms as the Mayor of Rockford, IL.

Topics: health, Healthy Workforce, healthy, healthy community