Moffat County Commissioners approve free health care clinic in Craig | CraigDailyPress.com

Moffat County Commissioners approve free health care clinic in Craig

Noelle Leavitt Riley

Moffat County Commissioners approved a new health care clinic in Craig on Tuesday, which will be located at 551 Tucker St. The house at one time was used as a dentist office and later turned into a health clinic for war veterans. Every bedroom is equipped with a sink, making it a good fit for a health care clinic, according to county officials.

— Moffat County's commissioners approved a new health care clinic Tuesday, paving the way for vendor Care Here to open a free clinic in Craig for Moffat County government employees and their families.

The purpose of the clinic is to give Moffat County employees a different option for basic health care needs and to save the county money, Human Resources Director Lynette Running said.

"Many employees don't want to take time off work, pay the co-pay and go see their doctor," Running said, noting that a free clinic with night and weekend hours might entice county employees to take better care of their health. "We have several employees that won't even go to the doctor."

Not everyone agrees with the new clinic. Some in the community have expressed concern that it will take business away from The Memorial Hospital and local doctors. Another concern is that the clinic is limited to a certain group of people, Craig resident Neil McCandless said.

"The main concern is that it's only for county employees, and it's not helping the health needs for the community," he said. "A lot of people who don't have insurance won't be able to go there. You take part of the business away from the hospital clinic — it's certainly going to feel the effect, I think."

Running hopes that it actually will create business for the hospital and local doctors because those who go to the clinic for preventative care and find that they have a particular ailment will then be referred to the hospital or local doctors for further care.

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The new health care clinic is an option the county has been evaluating for the past year to reduce costs and improve the health of its workers. The county outlined several of its reasons for opening the clinic:

• Moffat County has a high-cost, self-insured insurance plan, and the plan pays dollar for dollar for all of its employees' medical bills up to $80,000 per person.

• Care Here clinic will have one doctor or a physician's assistant and one nurse. It also will provide free 20-minute examinations and cover the costs of lab fees, generic prescriptions and health risk assessments.

• The annual clinic costs are estimated at $214,138, which includes initial set up, supplies and the cost to operate the facility. Currently, the county pays roughly $117 per person for a private-sector doctor's office visit. The average cost for an office visit to the free clinic comes to $85.79 per person for the county.

• The free clinic does not push additional costs on to taxpayers. It's funded out of the county's Health and Welfare fund.

"We're spending this money whether we have a clinic or not," Running said to the commissioners. "It's preventative care for employees."

All three commissioners were supportive of the clinic.

"I like the fact that we're using the free market to save money," Commissioner John Kinkaid said.

The county recently bought a three-bedroom house at 551 Tucker St. for $99,900. The house at one time was used as a dentist office and later turned into a health clinic for war veterans. Every bedroom is equipped with a sink, making it good fit for a health care clinic, Running said.

The property was purchased for county offices or for county services, Running said, adding that it will now house the free health care facility.

"After Obamacare kicks in, when everyone has (health insurance), you're going to find it hard to get into (private sector) clinics," Commissioner Tom Mathers said. "I just know that this is the new way that people are going to get health care. To me, the initial thing is an education process. Everyone needs to get all the facts."

The county also highlighted that it expects to see a return on investment after the first 18 months.

"We're estimating somewhere between $250,000 to $300,000 in savings over a three-year period," Running said, noting that those saving would occur after the clinic expenses have been deducted.

"I think it's a great idea," Commissioner Chuck Grobe said.

Noelle Leavitt Riley can be reached at 970-875-1790 or nriley@craigdailypress.com

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