More changes and added services are coming to the HCG Family Health Center, a clinic and pharmacy operated by Hall County for its employees, retirees and their dependents covered by the government’s health plan.
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.
The changes, announced Monday during a Board of Commissioners work session, coincide with efforts to reduce health care costs.
Hall officials have said operating the clinic and pharmacy at 2434 Old Cornelia Highway in Rabbittown will generate significant annual savings in the county’s health care costs, perhaps as much as $500,000 in the first year.
Beginning April 1, the county will have all prescription drugs related to workers’ compensation claims filled through the pharmacy, generating an estimated $18,000 in savings.
The county will also begin conducting new-hire physicals for most employees at the clinic next month, and in May will add public safety hires to the roster, which could save more than $30,000.
“Obviously the amount of savings that we experience will be based on the number of new hires that we have,” said Human Resources Director Bill Moats.
Also in May, the county will acquire equipment to test pulmonary functions.
The county clinic will also begin collecting drug test samples for screening by an outside service. Moats said the county would need to acquire a bar code system to help ensure the chain of custody.
“So we’ve got a lot of good things coming in the next couple weeks that will help us save even more money through the pharmacy and clinic,” Moats said.
Use of the clinic and pharmacy continues to increase.
“Both the pharmacy and the clinic are ahead of expectations based on the numbers we’re seeing,” Moats said.
Moats said over 500 scheduled appointments were made in January and February.
Many were same-day appointments, and the immediate access to care helps get workers back on the job more quickly, Moats said.
Moats said prescriptions filled through the pharmacy have saved tens of thousands of dollars in the first two months.
“We’re capturing almost 50 percent of prescriptions,” Moats said.
The average copay for an employee is $10.66, down from $13.36 with the former provider.
The pharmacy also has longer days of supply.
“So we’re able to get cheaper prices with longer-term prescription fills,” Moats said.
Commissioner Billy Powell said he hasn’t paid more than $3 for a prescription at the county pharmacy.
“I would encourage anybody that’s not using the pharmacy to use it,” he added.
Commissioner Scott Gibbs said he used to have a $10 co-pay for a prescription, but now pays just $1.42.
Gibbs has requested an update in July on savings for the clinic and pharmacy.
“Just so we’ll know midyear where we are,” he said. “While it’s a great benefit that we’re able to provide the employees, it was done as a cost savings to the county since we are self-insured.”
The county pharmacy is also providing naloxone, a medication that counters the effects of opioids and can prevent deaths resulting from heroin overdoses, to a drug abuse program called Think About It.
The medication will then be donated to the sheriff’s office.
Moats said more advertising of the clinic and pharmacy is needed to grow participation among employees, and a wellness coach will begin attending new hire orientations to inform employees about the services provided.
“Keep in mind that we’re only a few months into this,” Moats said. “So we have to be somewhat cautious that we’re not becoming too comfortable with where we are or too worried about where we are.”