In an effort to curb rising health care costs, major employers across the country are opening their own health centers where doctors and nurses provide medical care to their workers. This cost cutting strategy has been adopted by dozens of companies; usually large employers that are self-insured and pay their own medical claims. Walt Disney Co., American Express and Qualcomm Inc. are among employers who are embracing this idea.
Many of the health centers are full-service medical offices that are equipped with exam rooms, x-ray machines and pharmacies. Some centers provide on-site appointments with dentist, dermatologists, psychiatrists and other specialists. Executives say that providing in-house medical care keeps workers healthy and productive. The clinics also help to reduce absenteeism and assists in cutting the employers’ medical bills for outside doctors and emergency room visits. “Employers are seeing the health centers as a way to get more for their money,” said Helen Darling, president of the Washington, D.C. based nonprofit National Business Group on Health.
Nationally, 15% of companies with 500 or more employees had health centers last year, up from 11% the year before, according to an employer survey by benefits consulting firm Mercer. Companies with 20,000 or more employees were even more likely to have on-site clinics. American Express and other companies are expanding beyond urgent care and are emphasizing preventative services such as mammograms to keep employees from getting sick and running up big medical bills. Some companies such as NBCUniversal uses its own medical staff, while other companies rely on outside medical professionals, which helps the expansion of an industry that supplies doctors, nurses, lab technicians and other medical personnel. One of the largest of these medical vendors, Take Care Health Systems, oversees 2,500 doctors, nurses, x-ray technicians and physical therapists in more than 360 company health centers nationwide, including Qualcomm’s site in San Diego. Qualcomm said their health center has reduced emergency room visits, hospitalizations and medical claims and the workers like the convenience of having medical care close by.