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First health clinic for Brevard schools employees opens

Phil Davidson | Dec 28, 2016 5:18:26 PM

From Florida Today

Dec. 15, 2016

The first of three health clinics for Brevard Public Schools employees opened Wednesday.

Among the day’s first patients was School Board member Andy Ziegler, who has been pushing for the clinics for the past six years. He called the new Well-Care Center, located next to the district offices in Viera, a “dream come true” and “an incredible win-win” for the school board and staff.

With about 8,000 employees and 5,000 dependents insured through BPS, the new clinics are expected to save the district $9 million over the next three years. Insurance costs are the second-highest expense for the district after salaries.

 “If we catch things early, we have a healthier workforce and less claims down the road,” said Ziegler. And with no cost to visit the center, employees are "more likely to get things taken care of instead of letting them fester.”

Reducing health care costs could also exempt Brevard Public Schools from paying the Cadillac insurance tax imposed by the Affordable Care Act, which is set to take effect in 2018.

Approved this past summer, the total cost of the project was estimated at $3.1 million, including construction. Another clinic will open in the spring at Central Middle School in Melbourne, and a third during the summer at Jackson Middle in Titusville. Each one will cost between $500,000 and $600,000 in annual operating costs.

Operated by Vermont-based Marathon Health, each facility is equipped with exam rooms, a lab and a small supply of prescriptions, and can diagnose and treat common illnesses and injuries and provide health assessments and coaching services. Patients can also easily schedule appointments online.

The centers aren't intended to replace primary care physicians, though, and can in some cases help connect patients to PCPs in the area.

"What we are is that piece that provides lifestyle modification ... that the primary care physician doesn't have time for," said Dr. Charles Potts, explaining he'll see patients longer than the average doctor.

These clinics, he emphasized, offer a holistic approach to medicine with weight loss coaching, smoking cessation and stress-management services available. Additionally, 23 of the 50 most-prescribed medications within the district's insurance group will be free at the clinic.

"That's a very big benefit that puts money back in the employee's pocket," said BPS Chief Financial Officer Pennie Zuercher.

For now, only full-time employees and family members on their health care plan can use the clinic. But Ziegler will be looking into how the district could expand services to all eligible employees, including those who work part time.

Contact Caroline Glenn at caglenn@floridatoday.com or 321-576-5933, or follow her on Twitter @bycarolineglenn and like "Education at Florida Today" on Facebook.

Topics: News Coverage, In the News