Representatives of local retail pharmacies have expressed concern about Hall County’s plans to open a clinic and pharmacy for employees next year, arguing local government should not compete unfairly with the private sector.
And with the Board of Commissioners’ recent vote to implement changes to employee health care benefits in an effort to incentivize workers to use the county’s new pharmacy and clinic, local physicians are beginning to take notice as well.
However, impressions of the county’s plans are a mixed bag.
“Seems to me they’re undermining some of the folks who elected them,” said Scott Stewart, an ear, nose and throat specialist with Northeast Georgia Otolaryngology in Gainesville. “I don’t know the figures on how much money they’ll save, but it just seems like an unwise move to me. It’ll be interesting to see how it all turns out.”
The county has 1,132 active employees covered by its medical plan, and 2,802 total members when including dependents. Retirees and their dependents account for an additional 389 members.
County officials have approved increases in PPO 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.
Kaylee Welch, practice administrator for Pediatric Associates in Gainesville, said it’s too early to tell if her business will be impacted by the county’s plans, and that more information is needed.
Meanwhile, representatives from the Northeast Georgia Physicians Group said they hope to work in collaboration with the county’s clinic, adding that primary care doctors and specialists are available for referral.
“The clinic Hall County is establishing for its employees is consistent with the national trend of organizations providing similar services to improve their employees’ overall health and wellness while more efficiently managing costs,” said Sherry Dorsey, president and chief administrative officer for Northeast Georgia Physicians Group.
“In fact, Northeast Georgia Health System offers an occupational health clinic staffed by a nurse practitioner to help care for our employees during traditional business hours.”