The City of St. Petersburg christened its first employee clinic Monday, joining a growing number of public and private employers that are offering free or low-cost health care to their workers in an effort to curb rising insurance expenses.
Bayfront Medical Center will operate the Employee Health and Wellness Center, located at 603 Seventh St. S., for the city. The city is paying Bayfront a flat fee of $770,000 per year to run the clinic, plus an estimated $250,000 for prescription drugs, lab tests and immunizations. The city also agreed to spend about $60,000 on equipment.
The 3,400-square-foot medical center will be staffed by a family practice doctor, a nurse practitioner and two medical assistants.
Most services, including office visits, basic treatment and prescriptions and lab work, are free for full-time employees who are on the city’s health insurance. Employees can even take an hour — paid — during their normal work days to visit the clinic, said Gary Cornwell, the city’s director of human resources.
City administrators are hoping the clinic can identify serious or chronic conditions early on, when treatment is generally less expensive, and then provide ongoing wellness programs and case-management services to help employees manage their conditions, Cornwell said.
“We’re hoping to get our big bang for the buck by catching that stuff early and then having it managed,” he said.
The city is encouraging workers to visit the clinic even for simple afflictions such as sore throats and the flu; treating such common ailments early will help keep people on the job and from infecting co-workers.
Such measures are especially important for self-insured organizations such as the city because they pay claims themselves, so reducing the number of insurance claims their employees file saves them money.
“The city has nearly 2,700 full-time employees,” Mayor Bill Foster said in a statement. “We expect that this new benefit will allow for greater productivity, less absenteeism and a healthier workforce while also reducing claims and containing costs.”
Medical clinics opened in recent years by other governments in the Tampa Bay area, including the City of Tampa and the Pasco County school district, have proven popular with employees and reduced health care costs.