KELLER — In an effort to curb rising healthcare costs, the Keller school district will open an employee health clinic next fall at a yet-to-be-determined location.School trustees voted 6-0 Thursday night to approve Marathon Health as the vendor for the new clinic.Initially, the clinic will be available (with no copay) only to employees enrolled in the district’s health plan and not spouses or dependents. The staffing will be a nurse practitioner and an office manager. A physician will oversee all medical charts but will not be on site.The first-year cost of the clinic is estimated at $783,000, the second year at $623,000, said Penny Benz, assistant superintendent of human resources.Officials expect about 60 percent of the 2,400 employees who are part of the health plan to use the clinic in its first year. Benz said that the clinic will be open 40 hours a week and can see patients for check-ups, colds, flu, allergies and other minor issues, along with assistance for managing various chronic conditions.“We want to find creative solutions to reduce health care costs, both for the employee and the district,” Benz said. The clinic should rein in expenses by reducing emergency room and urgent care visits, absenteeism and lower productivity due to working while dealing with minor illnesses. Benz said officials are seeking clinic space in the central part of the district to make it easy for staff members to access.“It’s a very positive move to show our employees that we’re making an effort to make things manageable for them,” said Trustee Cindy Lotton.Keller will be the second district in Northeast Tarrant County with its own clinic. The neighboring Northwest school district opened its Employee Health and Wellness Center in 2011 and provides — for free — routine medical exams, lab tests and small samples of some generic medications to employees and dependents enrolled in the district’s health plan.Keller administrators visited Northwest’s clinic before making their recommendation to the board.Kitty Poehler, Northwest’s executive director of personnel services, said the clinic has more than paid for itself since it opened. For the 2012-13 plan year, the district saved about $400,000 more than the $1 million needed to operate the facility. The clinic is staffed by a doctor, two physician assistants and a receptionist and averages about 200 patients a month. District officials can now get data from Allegiance Benefit Plan Management (part of Cigna) to compare costs when an employee gets service from the clinic versus going to an outside medical provider, Poehler said.About 1,100 of 1,800 employees participate in the medical plan. As the number of employees grows, the clinic can add staff, she said. Northwest employees can receive a monthly premium reduction of $25 to $50 (based on their coverage) by participating in an annual personal health assessment with the clinic doctor, Poehler said.The assessment includes measurement of height, weight and blood pressure, along with a blood test that can screen for diabetes, cholesterol and liver and kidney diseases. The employee receives a detailed report of both results and recommendations.
Sandra Engelland, 817-431-2231 Twitter: @SandraEngelland