By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Hall County employees clinic, pharmacy to open today
0105CLINIC 0006
Vicky Anderson, lead pharmacy technician, places labels on shelves under prescription bottles at HCG Family Health Center to preapare for opening day. The building was renovated from a library into the health center. - photo by Erin O. Smith

HCG Family Health Center

Clinic hours: 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday, 7:30 a.m. to noon Wednesday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday; no appointments available between 1 and 1:30 p.m.

Pharmacy hours: 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday; 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday and 8:30 a.m. to noon Saturday; always closed 1:30-2 p.m.

Where: 2434 Old Cornelia Highway, Gainesville

Ribbon cutting: Saturday

Doors open early this morning at the HCG Family Health Center, a clinic and pharmacy serving county employees, at 2434 Old Cornelia Highway in Rabbittown.

With an approximately $60,000 budget, inmate labor and the services of the public works department, Hall County wrapped up renovations to the old East Hall library branch last week.

Now the pharmacy is stocked, the exam rooms are ready, even the entrance was repaved.

The clinic serves all county employees, retirees and their dependents covered by Hall’s health plans.

Human Resources Director Bill Moats said the Drug Enforcement Administration had finished its inspection, and all security had been implemented.

Moats said the clinic and pharmacy will be open Monday through Saturday, with half-day Wednesdays in order to free up a few Saturday hours, and closed on Sundays.

Hall officials have said the move to open their own clinic and pharmacy will generate significant annual savings in the county’s health care costs, about $500,000 in the first year, according to estimates.

“I think it’s very exciting that it’s all come together,” said Commissioner Jeff Stowe, adding that using a building already owned by the county helped lower costs for taxpayers.

Opening the clinic and pharmacy today also coincides with changes to the county’s health plans.

Purported savings related to the clinic could stem from a reduction in the number of urgent and emergency care visits to the hospital by county workers.

The county has 1,132 active employees covered by its medical plan, and 2,802 members including dependents. Retirees and their dependents account for an additional 389 members.

County officials expect to be able to purchase and distribute prescription drugs at a lower cost for employees on its health plan.

The out-of-pocket cost for a generic drug will be just $4 at the county pharmacy but will cost $20 at a retail pharmacy.

In an effort to encourage county employees to use the clinic and pharmacy, Hall officials have approved increases in deductibles for both in-network and out-of-network visits, while also increasing copays for emergency room and urgent care services.

Moreover, there will be no copays for visits to the county clinic, while the copay for a visit to a primary care doctor remains $20. Visits to a specialist will rise to $40.

Employees will not see any change in their overall medical premiums as the county will absorb the expected 2.9 percent increase.

The county has shifted its pharmacy benefit manager to Cigna, which Moats said will save the county about $1.7 million over the next three years.

“I think employees are going to like it,” Commissioner Scott Gibbs said of the health plan changes and opening of the clinic/pharmacy.

Representatives of local retail pharmacies, as well as some private physicians, have expressed concern about the county opening its own clinic and pharmacy for employees, arguing local government should not compete unfairly with the private sector.

County officials said employees will still be allowed to use retail pharmacies and visit their primary care physicians if they choose.

County officials said it is imperative to track hard numbers on cost savings.

An effort to get the city of Gainesville to partner in opening the clinic and pharmacy was rejected, with city officials saying they intend to keep operating their own clinic off West Ridge Road.

“We will watch the cost,” Stowe said. “I hope the city will see what a first-class facility this is.”

Regional events