News & Media

Bringing the Doctor In-House

02/17/2015 Lancaster Online By Heather Stauffer

IU13 partners with QuadMed to launch an onsite health and wellness center for employees

Shannan Guthrie and Flip Steinour pose outside the new QuadMed clinic at Burle Business Park.Lancaster-Lebanon Intermediate Unit 13 has a new plan to cut health care costs, and employees are expected to love it.

And because the plan involves putting a doctor’s office right in the IU headquarters and offering free care, they probably will.

Based in the Burle Business Park on New Holland Avenue, the IU is an education service agency that provides products and services to public school districts, private schools, pre-schools, adult learners and others.

The IU is believed to be the first Lancaster County employer to bring health care in-house.

Flip Steinour, the IU’s director of human resources, said the most conservative estimate of the IU’s return on investment over five years is $1.7 million, or about 2.5 percent of the IU’s health care costs over that period of time.

“We believe that long-term this is going to save us money through wellness initiatives and catching things earlier,” he said.

The IU is working with Wisconsin-based QuadMed to build health and wellness centers at its two county offices, and to hire a doctor, wellness coach and other medical staff.

Starting in a couple of weeks, the centers will be open a combined 30 hours a week for everything from physicals to blood tests.

Members will also be able to fill some prescriptions there and have physical therapy sessions.

Use of the centers is optional, Steinour said. Employees who prefer their current health-care providers and the associated co-pays can keep them.

“This is about making people well,” he said, noting that wellness coaching and management of conditions like diabetes is an important part of QuadMed’s program. “We want to try to drive people who don’t currently go to the doctor to our centers.”

Shannan Guthrie, the IU’s supervisor of corporate communications, noted that the services offered were selected based on the past few years of IU health plan claims.

As new usage patterns emerge, she said, the services can be adjusted accordingly.

Employees’ biggest concerns have been about confidentiality, Steinour said, and he has an answer for them: “We’ll have as much access to their medical records under QuadMed as we do now. Which is none.”

Steinour expects the centers to be popular.

“I’ve actually visited locations in several other states and talked to people who have done this,” he said. “Every one of them who have done this said this is one of the best things they ever did.”

Jim Schmucker, executive director of Lancaster's nonprofit Business Group on Health, is familiar with the concept.

"Employees love it," Schmucker said, but "It's a very expensive undertaking, and you need a large local group of employees that could utilize such a service to even begin to make it a financially viable option."

QuadMed has more than 100 clients nationwide, according to a company spokeswoman.

It offers on-site centers to employers such as the IU, that have more than 750 employees in one geographic area.

For smaller companies, it offers shared health centers that combines the populations from multiple employers.

The IU provides health coverage to more than 800 staff members and their dependents.

Like many other large employers, it long ago chose to go self-insured because assuming more risk allows it to keep costs lower.

But even so, Steinour said, the IU’s health plan is on the verge of the so-called “Cadillac tax” limits.

The term refers to a provision of the Affordable Care Act that will impose a 40 percent excise tax on health benefits beyond $10,200 for singles and $27,500 for couples and families.

The Cadillac tax will begin in 2018, and “is of grave concern for traditional public servants that have maintained very rich plans,” Schmucker said.

A recent United Benefit Advisors Health Plan survey of health plans shows why.

Nationwide, average total premium cost per employee in 2014 was $9,504, of which employees contributed $3,228. But for public employees, those figures were $11,329 and $2,040, respectively.

“Some people are under the false belief that because the Cadillac tax affects unions and public service workers more than private ones that the government’s going to waive it or push it back,” Schmucker said. “I think that's a false hope.”

The IU is working to avoid the tax, Steinour said.

He hopes that in concert with the organization’s longstanding emphasis on wellness, the new on-site medical services will help achieve that goal.

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