BY BUDDY NEVINS
Sometimes government gets it right.
Four of the five commissioners are up for re-election in March. I’m betting you won’t hear a lot from challengers about a bona fide Plantation success story — the City Hall Health Clinic.
The program has saved about $500,000 in health care costs since it started roughly two years ago.
Employees, their families and retirees covered by the Plantation’s health care plan are encouraged to get routine treatment at a clinic located on the city hall campus. It is operated by Marathon Health.
The program is voluntary. Employees and others can continue to use their private physicians if they want, but a majority use the clinic for some of their health care needs.
The savings have been dramatic.
The city savings include not paying physicians or specialists for routine primary care such as colds, infections, blood tests and treatment of chronic illnesses such as diabetes. Instead, employees are treated in the clinic.
There are other savings, such as a drop in employee sick days of more than 330 this fiscal year so far and a decrease in time away from work to visit an outside physician.
Employees find the clinic convenient because it is located in their workplace and there is seldom a problem getting an appointment or dropping in. It is open two nights-a-week, although closed on city holidays.
Gift cards at businesses like Publix, BP and Wal-Mart are offered to beneficiaries taking annual exams or keeping a log of their exercise program.
Here is an amazing statistic from the clinic: The patients being treated for chronic health problems showed an average 16 percent drop in body mass, a 60 percent drop in blood pressure and a 44 percent drop in total cholesterol.
Clinic nurses proudly point to lives they saved – a woman’s routine exam found breast cancer and a maintenance worker who didn’t feel well was diagnosed to be in the midst of a major heart attack.
Anonymous satisfaction surveys have shown employees love the clinic.
Plantation is not the only city that is doing this. Municipalities the size of Plantation are ideal for this savings because many of the employees work in one location or nearby.
Unfortunately it would be difficult to do for big governments such as Broward County or the school system because the employees are spread out. And for small cities like West Park, it probably wouldn’t pay unless they combined with neighboring cities to offer the service.
I’m cynical about government, but this is an idea that apparently works. It saves money and improves the health of employees.
It is ideas like this – a public/private partnership – that will make government more efficient.
Plantation is already doing it. Voters need to know before the March election that there are a good things happening in city hall.