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Governor Announces Employee Health Center Being Considered -- Better Care, Less Cost

Press Release

Location: Helena, MT

Governor Brian Schweitzer today announced that Montana is considering developing its own employee medical clinic to improve the quality of care for State employees and their dependents, and to decrease health care costs. The state issued a request for proposal ( today to begin the process.

"Quality, affordable and accessible healthcare is the goal," said Governor Brian Schweitzer. "This is an opportunity to provide better primary care for state employees and their families and save money for both the employees and taxpayers. Partly because we have challenged every expense we have more than $460 million in the bank."

The specific goals of the health center are:

* Increase access to primary care
* Improve health outcomes
* Reduce costs for members and the self-funded plan
* Encourage a healthy productive workforce
* Improve health care management

The development of the health center will be paid from existing funds. The savings from the health center should result in a repayment of those funds in approximately one year, and a savings of another $1 million in two years. With regard to out of pocket costs, the state anticipates that employees and their dependents that use the health center will pay reduced or no co-payments, thereby sharing the savings with the members.

Governor Schweitzer challenges every expense and partly because he has -- today Montana has more than $460 million in the bank. Health care costs go up an average of 6% per year. This health center is another way to reduce costs for employees and taxpayers. Governor Schweitzer has saved or collected more than $159 million including:

$40 million in 5% budget reductions across state government, $4 million from State Vehicle Reduction, $79 million in audit collections by the Department of Revenue, $800,000 biennium savings by extending computer replacement cycle to 5 years, $3.4 million renegotiating lease rates for commercial space rented by the state, $17,000 in savings from Governor and Lt. Governor salary decrease, $6 million in savings from cancelled building projects across the state, $450,000 in estimated savings through efficiency steps taken by the Department of Livestock in the implementation of the Brucellosis Action Plan, $400,000 by rescreening aggregate and using the surplus and obsolete material, rather than crushing new material, $18 million cancelling the new unemployment insurance (UI) contribution computer system, $4.5 million cancelling renovations of the unused Receiving Hospital Building on the Montana State Hospital Campus, $2 million in savings by state government by suspending some wildfire-related equipment purchases and fuels reduction projects in 2010, $600,000 not bailing out Swank Enterprises' clean up liabilities, $380,000 over the biennium with the elimination of the RDO positions in Commerce, $131,000 in savings from Department of Revenue printing fewer tax booklets, $20,000 in estimated saving by not printing a state phone directory.

The employee health center will offer primary care physician services, including preventive medicine and treating patients who are sick. The health center will offer laboratory and other services to support the physician services. Pharmacy services will also be offered.

"The idea is to have a health care system that encourages and promotes wellness, involves employees in their health care decisions, and puts the patient at the center of all health care decisions -- all while saving money," said Governor Schweitzer.

Quality of care can be improved by better integration of data from multiple data sources, such as other providers, pharmacy, and health and wellness screenings. Rather than requiring patients to remember everything their health care providers have recommended in the past, a computer program can combine all the data in real time for the current health care provider visit. The health center will be integrated with the wellness and care coordination programs offered by the State of Montana. Lastly, the health center will be designed to increase access to providers and decrease the waiting times to see a provider.

With the cost of health care continuing to rise, Governor Schweitzer has been looking for innovative ways to cut costs for consumers and the state budget. Earlier this year the governor froze increases in state employee health insurance costs, saving the average employee $462 in projected health insurance cost increases.

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