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MT Health Clinics Are Cost Effective, Not 'Free'

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, July 31, 2013

This $1.5 million savings does not factor in the enhanced productivity from state employees who are less likely to call in sick or have other health-related issues, thanks to their improved health status. With that in mind, the savings could be much higher. "It is part of our plan to measure all of that," Hill says.

The initial success in Helena has prompted expansion plans. "We opened our first health center on Aug. 31, 2012. That was in Helena. We opened our second one on June 3, 2013, in Billings. We will probably have nine or 10 of them around the state where we have concentrations of state employees," he says. "It has met and actually exceeded all of our expectations."

NPR notes that the clinic is a first for state employees, but businesses have been using this model successfully for several years now. And Hill is quick to call the state's decision to set up the clinics "an employer solution, not a government solution."

"It's an important distinction because we are not opening this to all citizens. This is just for Montana employees who are members of our health plan," he says.

In addition to providing primary care services, the clinics also offer wellness coaches. "On staff we have a registered dietician, an exercise physiologist, a behavioral health coach, and a wellness nurse. Those people work with the clinical team to work with our patients who have chronic diseases or even potentially acute diseases," Hill says. And because employees aren't tagged with out-of-pocket co-pays every time they go to the clinic, Hill says they are more likely to follow the advice of the physicians and the wellness staff.

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