The national debate over health care reform rages on, but some school districts are taking matters into their own hands and looking to employer-driven health care solutions to drive down costs and improve coverage. So far, the results are encouraging.
With health care costs ballooning nationwide, Florida’s Pasco County School District has bucked the trend and cut health care costs for its 8,000 employees by 5 percent across-the-board over the last year. The district even managed to keep its prescription drug plan costs steady, even while costs of drug plans nationwide jumped by over 9 percent in the past year.
Pasco’s success is due to a system of on-site wellness centers, opened last year at three strategically placed locations that make preventative care convenient for district employees. Staffed by a team of nurses, dieticians, and exercise physiologists, the centers offer a wide range of services, including x-rays and physicals, as well as comprehensive treatment for diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
“We have diverted a large portion of our doctors’ visits through the wellness centers, which are cheaper and more efficient,” says Mary Tillman, the Director of Employee Benefits, Assistance & Risk Management, at the Pasco County School District. As of June 2012, over 4,600 district employees have visited the wellness centers and the increased access to low-cost preventative care has driven down average healthcare costs.
The Pasco District’s approach to health-care relies on rigorous data collection and analysis. In 2011, the district began working with Florida-based health care company Med-Vision, whose Med-View data analysis tool assesses health-records and helps streamline care. Med-Vision allows the Pasco District to ascertain the most common health problems among their employees and tailor a health plan to fit those needs. Med-Health believes that successful health care delivery hinges on the employee-employer relationship. “Employers are positioned to empower employees to better health through a true organizational culture of wellness,” says Connie Gee, vice president of Med-Vision.
In the case of Pasco County, Med-Vision’s data-analysis was instrumental in achieving the cut in costs. “I use Med-Vision’s data to inform my funding decisions; its really invaluable,” says Mary Tillman. Thanks to rigorous data collection, Tillman has tweaked the services offered at wellness centers to better fit the needs of district employees. Last year, after data analysis revealed the district would benefit from a weight-loss initiative, district employees lost over 1,000 pounds.
Other districts that take a similar approach are also realizing substantial savings. For instance, Tampa Bay’s Manatee County Schools has also partnered with Med-Vision and managed to keep health care costs stable for three straight years.
Avi Asher-Schapiro is a freelance writer.