Health Care Insider: Partnership Means Better Health Care for Less MoneyMay 27, 2014
Not long ago, schoolteachers in Grand Junction, Colo., had a health care plan that cost each family $8,000 a year for a policy with a $12,000 deductible. That’s when the district started looking for a better way. Chris Thomas, CEO at Community Junction Hospital in Grand Junction, tells us about the innovative partnership the hospital implemented with the school district, and later county government, that not only provided better health care but also significantly reduced costs.
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Chris Thomas: Hi I'm Chris Thomas, I'm the President and CEO at Community Hospital.
Host: You have some really innovative partnerships with the school district and with the county, tell us what those are about, how they came about, and what have some of the results been.
Chris Thomas: As healthcare costs have continued to rise businesses have really struggled, and many of our government entities have struggled also with double digit increases. And so in the past what they've done to lower their cost of healthcare is pass more dollars onto their employees with higher premiums, higher deductibles, and they just ended up with plans that were really tough for the employees. So for example the school district ended up with a plan that had a $6,000.00 deductible for a single, almost a $12,000.00 deductible for a family, and premiums of almost $8,000.00 a year.
So for our teachers the $20,000.00 of their healthcare was out of their pocket before their benefit kicked in. So what happened is they weren't going, and when they did go they were train-wrecks, and so the school district really saw their healthcare costs going up, and really weren't improving the health of their employees. And so they went out and looked for a way to lower their cost, and that's what brought us together, and we brought together, and we brought together basically an employer sponsored clinic.
So in the past as we recruited physicians that really set the stage for being able to provide that service, and so in essence what the school district did was they bought primary care for their employees. They bought that through Community Hospital directly, and then we provide primary care, meds, and also lab service to the employees at no cost. So now there's no reason for the school district employees and their families to not see a physician. And one of the things I've said around this community is the most expensive place to receive healthcare is in our emergency department. The most effective cost conscious way to receive care is at our primary care offices.
In the first year, they lowered their healthcare cost $2.4 million, almost 29% lower premiums, costs, expenses for the school district, that's important. Those are the people that are teaching our kids, they've got $2.4 million now to go towards other ventures within the organization. And then for the hospital it was a real win for us, because not only did we enroll almost 1800 of their members into our clinics, we saw a 69% increase from that work group utilizing Community Hospital, so it was a huge win for us also.
Host: A great win for both sides of the community. Again dollars staying in the community. That's a really, really phenomenal model, and then you took that model and also offered a variant of it to the county.
Chris Thomas: Yeah, we went one step further with the county. They kind of watched for a year, and so we stepped in and were able to offer the same clinic model to the county. But then because our costs are significantly lower then the other hospital in town, upwards of 40% lower for many services, the county wanted to take advantage of that, and so we entered into an exclusive provider organization where we're the only in-network hospital for the county. They put that out to their employees, and 86% of their employees choose that plan. And so far in the first 3 months of that partnership they've saved about $40,000.00 on their clinic expenses, and almost 28% on their hospital expenses.
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