September 8, 2018 10:04:15 PM
Zack Plair - [email protected]
When it came to whether the city of Columbus would continue to use Baptist primary care clinic services next fiscal year, better information and a better price made all the difference.
Councilmen voted unanimously Tuesday to renew the city's contract with Baptist Medical Group for clinic services, less than a month after announcing its intent to withdraw from the contract.
Columbus, along with Lowndes County and Columbus Light and Water, entered separate agreements with BMG in February 2017 to offer the clinic -- located at 2503 Fifth St. N. -- for their employees and dependents. The clinic is staffed with nurses, a nurse practitioner and the equipment necessary to provide services such as preventative care, physicals and educational programs along with primary care and prescriptions, all at no cost to the insured employees.
In August, the council was erroneously told only 35 employees and their dependents were using the clinic. Since then, BMG corrected that census, showing considerably more use by city-insured patients. The group also renegotiated the contract for all three entities in a way that will save the city a projected $60,000 to $80,000 in Fiscal Year 2019, which begins Oct. 1.
"After Baptist went back and made some adjustments to their numbers, and after talking to some of the employees about how much the clinic was needed, we thought it was a valuable resource for the city," Mayor Robert Smith told The Dispatch. "We're grateful to Baptist for being willing to make those adjustments."
Next fiscal year, the clinic's base for "covered lives" is 926 -- meaning that's the number of employees and dependents entering the year covered by either city, county or CLW insurance plans. Of that total, Columbus insurance is responsible for slightly more than half, at 472, according to Human Resources Director Pat Mitchell.
For each covered life, each entity will pay $254.65 ($120,195 total) annually, compared to $359.40 ($169,637) this fiscal year. For each "additional covered life," which Mitchell said includes employees and dependents added to the insurance beyond 472, the charge will be $6.30 per month, compared to $26 per month in FY 2018.
Neither of those figures include prescription costs, however.
This fiscal year, Mitchell said the city would pay about $280,000 for BMG clinic services. Next year, she hopes that cost will fall to between $200,000 and $220,000.
The county and CLW should save a combined $60,000 to $80,000 next year, as well.
"We're excited to continue our relationship with the city, county and Columbus, Light and Water," said Janet Cranford, BMG's regional operations director. "We've all worked hard to negotiate something that was acceptable to everyone."
In a meeting with the city's insurance committee in late August, Cranford reported the clinic saw 70 city-insured patients in July, which she indicated had been about normal. In August, however, that number exceeded 100 city patients for the first time since the clinic opened.
Between all three entities, Cranford previously told the city council the clinic averages between 200 and 250 visits monthly.
To keep city numbers up, Mitchell has invited BMG representatives to the city's upcoming open enrollment meeting so they can present the full range of clinic services to employees.
The mayor believes that will help the clinic's long-term sustainability.
"We have some employees who use the clinic three to four times a month and others who only use it a few times a year or even less than that," he said. "We want to encourage our employees that if they want to keep the clinic, they've got to use it."
Zack Plair is the managing editor for The Dispatch.