Locking horns over health care in Moffat County
May 31, 2013
Craig — The staff at Memorial Hospital wants to keep people happy and healthy. So do leaders of Moffat County. The problem is that they each have different ideas about how that should be done.
The county is exploring the option of opening a health care clinic specifically for Moffat County employees and their families, and next Tuesday the Moffat County Commissioners will hear a recommendation to approve the contract vendor that will supply staffing for the new facility.
"When this whole idea came about, it was partly due to insurance because we were having some large claims in the county and found that it would be cheaper to go this route," said County Commissioner Tom Mathers. "It's something we've been working on for months and months now."
Currently, the county pays $140 to $200 for an office visit, with employees footing $35 co-pays. The commissioners are hoping that the clinic will drive down costs and improve medical care in the community by providing competition.
The planned clinic is described as more of a "wellness center, as opposed to a physician's office, and is geared toward preventative medicine and continuing care.
The facility would be open on weekends in order to provide greater accessibility for patients and create competition with clinics that close their doors for the weekend.
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The entire price tag for the project will be around $200,000, but taxpayers have nothing to fear, Commissioner John Kincaid pointed out.
"This will cost the people of Moffat County zero dollars in taxes. All of the money is coming out of our insurance fund," he said. "If it wasn't cheap, we wouldn't be doing it."
Fears have circulated that local doctors and The Memorial Hospital will find themselves in a financial bind as patients turn elsewhere for medical care and pharmacies will lose business to the clinic dispensary.
"TMH asks the county commissioners to work with the local healthcare community to find an affordable, locally supported solution that will reduce the county’s cost to provide health care and improve employees' overall health and wellness. The Memorial Hospital’s team has significant resources to offer and a desire for a true partnership that brings value to the county’s employees and their dependents and allows the Moffat County Commissioners to meet their fiduciary responsibility to its citizens," hospital CEO Joyce Hein said in a statement to the Craig Daily Press.
"This would be a totally new model of care for our area," Dr. Pamela Kinder said. "I'm really not sure if there are enough county employees to support the model."
The hospital's board of trustees presented their concerns during Tuesday morning's county commission meeting.
"Oh, the hospital's pretty upset about it," Mathers admitted. "They said what about the pharmacies? They said we'd be taking money out of the community. Well, if you go to Walgreens or Walmart to buy medicine it's doing the same thing. That money doesn't stay here."
Mathers also said that the clinic would be a great boon to employees, being more convenient and efficient, as well as a non-taxable benefit. He asserted that the clinic would be more cost effective for Moffat County taxpayers who would no longer be supporting the more expensive insurance policy currently in use.
"I would hope that whatever direction the county decides to go, they'll still be open to the idea of cooperation with the community," Hein said.
A space for the clinic has already been secured, and the search for staff will likely begin as soon as a vendor is chosen.