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How One Employer’s Unique Health Clinic Offerings Saved $4 Million
By Jennifer Austin, Director of Marketing and Product Development, The Alliance

Matt had always talked about creating an on-site clinic with Merrill Steel’s ownership, but once he understood how damaging the cost of health care was to his community, there was no going back.

“We learned that Wisconsin is the second-highest state for health care costs, so it kind of becomes a necessary action when you see the disparity from states averaging 150% of Medicare while Wisconsin is averaging 400% of Medicare.”

Matt was likely referring to RAND Corporation’s Hospital Price Transparency Study, which used claims data to compare hospital prices paid for by privately insured patients as a percentage of Medicare.

So Matt went on a mission to improve health care for his nearly 500 employees by creating an on-site direct primary care clinic.

DIGGING DEEP FOR FUTURE SAVINGS

It would not be cheap; the cheapest commercial bid came in at $370,000.

“We thought, ‘Boy, we could build something for that,’” Matt said, so he took matters into his own hands – quite literally – and went to Merrill Steel’s ownership with an unusual proposal.

Matt did general contracting for a few years throughout his college career, so he offered to serve as the general contractor, and with the ownership’s blessing, he assembled his team and built the clinic.

THE FRUITS OF LABOR

When it was all said and done, Merrill Steel’s initial investment totaled $250,000 – all before they saw a cent of savings. However, Merrill Steel’s investment provided a quick return.

“We’re self-insured, and we’re spending over $5 million on health care, writing checks for stop-loss insurance, etc. – so cost was a big factor for us,” Matt explained. “We were seeing 9% cost increases every year, but we’ve now saved $4 million.”

THE DOCTOR IS IN

But Matt didn’t stop there. Once they realized big savings from the clinic, they were able to focus on other areas they could save, too.
A large portion of Merrill Steel’s health care costs were being spent on expensive imaging services (MRIs, ultrasounds, X-rays,) and considering how rough-and-tough the nature of steelwork can be, those stats are not unique – but how Matt solved it was.

He bought and refurbished an old ambulance, transforming it into a mobile health clinic that makes house calls.

DRIVING TOWARDS HIGHER VALUE

Giving new meaning to direct primary care, the mobile clinic provides special accessibility to health care services and saves Merrill Steel and its employees on health care costs by avoiding urgent care and emergency room services. It’s a convenient vehicle for prescription medications, injury treatment, and is even outfitted with a mobile X-ray machine.

Merrill Steel offers some incredible services at their on-site clinic, too – IVs, lab work, casting services, suturing, MRIs, X-rays, and physical therapy – and all at equivocal or lower costs than what their local health systems charge. The clinic can also prescribe, saving employees time and money to fill prescriptions without the cost or hassle of additional office visits.

“I’m not motivated by awards,” said Matt. “We’re the second-to-highest cost state for health care in the nation, so there's good motivation for me to help people – but also to help our companies survive and prosper and be competitive in the marketplace.”

 
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