League City will save $426,000 it spends on an employee medical clinic because it won’t renew its contract with Tennessee-based CareHere when it expires Jan. 31.
University of Texas Medical Branch has proposed a preferred network arrangement for city employees that city officials are calling a “win-win.”
“We’ve been working on this since May,” city consultant Julian Fontana said.
Fontana, who works for Dallas-based IPS Advisors, worked on details of League City’s 2018 medical benefits package for city employees with Cigna Health Insurance. The city changed its health insurance provider to Connecticut-based Cigna last year. Before that, Austin-based Boon-Chapman was the city’s health insurance provider, and Boon-Chapman encouraged the CareHere program.
A missing piece of the 2018 benefits package was the medical branch deal that IPS sought to replace CareHere. The proposal wasn’t in place before the council had to vote on the city’s budget in September.
The appeal of CareHere clinics is that they allow employees to use the services without paying a copay or deductible and offer some generic prescriptions for free. League City opened its CareHere clinic in 2014 in partnership with Galveston County.
But a survey of 244 League City employees showed that while most of them rated the CareHere clinic as fair to good on providing basic care for basic illnesses, the employees wanted more, Human Resources Director Janet Shirley said.
The employees wanted quality, availability and flexible scheduling, according to the survey.
“All of these are answered with the UTMB system,” Shirley said.
The medical branch is proposing having early or extended hours for employees to better accommodate their schedules. It’s also offering to set aside a block of appointment times for city employees.
With the medical branch as a preferred provider, employees would have to pay a copay for a doctor’s appointment, but it would be at a reduced rate. Fontana described it as an incentive to encourage employees to use the medical branch services for more of their needs.
Also, under the proposed two-year contract, the medical branch would give the city an additional 10 percent discount.
The overhead expenses of CareHere cost League City $426,000, city staff said.
Switching over to the medical branch will have some costs, Fontana said. Setting up the system would cost the city at least $16,335, he said.
Also, the free over-the-counter generic prescriptions employees got for allergies, acid reflux and headaches would no longer be free, Fontana said.
The city’s contract with CareHere requires a 30-day notice that the city won’t renew it, Shirley said.
The deal would save the city money and would benefit employees, Councilman Nick Long said. It also would keep League City patients and people in League City, he said.
“We win on a three-level basis,” Long said.