Pima County’s health care choices reflect savings, improved health care outcomesby Pima County News on Oct. 30, 2012, under Health, Pima County, Southern Arizona, Tucson, Uncategorized
Recent changes toPimaCounty’s health care plans are beginning to control costs and build a healthier workforce.
With the County’s re-energized focus on building a culture of wellness and reining in spiraling medical costs over the past several years, a number of benchmarks show promise:
- With increased resources for employees with complex conditions, there was a nearly 5 percent decrease in complications for those with diabetes during the 2011 plan year, and a more than 20 percent decrease in claimants per 1,000 with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, according to statistics from UnitedHealthcare. More than 11 percent ofPimaCountyemployees identified as “at risk” for diabetes took advantage of educational programs aimed at preventing and controlling the disease.
- During 2011/12, more than four times as many employees completed a health risk assessment over the prior year. Of those, 74 percent were identified as “low risk” – a number up 5 percent from the previous year;
- Emergency room visits, with an average cost per visit of $287, decreased nearly 7 percent, while employees opted instead for urgent care visits, a less acute option with an average cost of $53.
Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry said he was pleased with the results.
“Healthy employees are productive employees, so this is not just about lowering costs, but ensuring better utilization of health care,” Huckelberry said. “We hope to continue to assess our health culture throughoutPimaCounty, building on areas we’re doing well and seeking new opportunities to make a difference in the lives of employees and their families.”
Huckelberry said the numbers indicate the County’s participation in innovative programs is starting to bear fruit.
The County, for example, offers premium discounts for those workers who don’t use tobacco, who exercise, and who complete health assessments and preventive screenings. More than 82 percent of employees took advantage of the wellness discounts in the past fiscal year. Additionally, more than 66 percent have taken advantage of health savings accounts, used in conjunction with high-deductible health plans.
The trajectory is trending in such a positive direction, saidPimaCounty’s Human Resources Director Allyn Bulzomi, that the County continues to work toward a self-insurance model, potentially to take effect July 2013.
Traditionally, the County has contracted with an insurance carrier to provide employee health benefits, allowing that carrier to assume all of the risks or rewards. If caring forPimaCountyemployees cost less than the premiums, the insurance provider made a profit.
Now that employee health claims have begun to drop below premium levels, it provides a strong opportunity to explore self-insurance. It will also allow for some savings on administrative overhead costs, which typically run 10 to 12 percent of the premium.
“We will continue to analyze health outcomes and program data to ensure we are responsible stewards of tax dollars, while also ensuring the best outcomes for our employees,” Bulzomi said.
Bulzomi said the transition to a new model would be seamless for employees.
Under the direction of County Administrator Huckelberry, the self-insurance committee recommended the County obtain proposals from vendors for self-insurance. The Request for Proposals (RFP) was published on Tuesday, October 23, 2012. Responses are due in by November 26, 2012.