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MT Health Clinics Are Cost Effective, Not 'Free'

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, July 31, 2013

"We have a self-funded medical plan and that pays for claims and can also pay for the services at the health center," Hill says. As with most company-sponsored health plans, the cost of premiums for Montana state employees "depends upon what plan they are on and if they are an employee, with family or with spouse only. There are a variety of things."

With that distinction made clear, we can better appreciate the success of the Helena clinic. It's not a money-losing giveaway. It's a willful strategy that adds credence to the idea that providing easy access to affordable and proactive care is a proven way to actually curtail the rising costs of healthcare.

The Helena clinic will mark its one-year anniversary on Aug. 31, but it has already saved the state an estimated $1.5 million by making available primary care services such as health screenings, flu shots, and wellness counseling that are done by a contracted provider staff to about 11,000 employees, their dependents, and pre-Medicare retired state employees. Screenings and flu shots are also made available to Medicare-eligible retired state employees.

Hill says the $1.5 million figure was attained in a cost-effectiveness analysis that compared the per-patient per-visit cost in the clinic with the same number of services delivered in the private, fee-for-service environment.

The savings come, he says, "because we are able to deliver services without the mark up that has to happen in the private fee-for-service model."

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