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Danville looking into health clinic for city employees as insurance increases

(WSET)

DANVILLE, Va. (WSET) -- Danville leaders are considering a new take on keeping employees healthy by investing in a health care center that could save your tax dollars.

The City of Danville is looking into establishing a five-year plan and leaders are looking for ways to save money.

City Manager Ken Larking said having a health clinic for city employees could reduce their growing health insurance costs.

"The cost of health insurance increases at a much higher rate than the cost for other things," Larking said.

With more than 900 employees, Larking said the city is trying to work on how it treats healthcare.

"The goal would be to provide convenient access to health care to employees and a reduced rate to them," he added. "The increase that we're expecting for health insurance for the upcoming year is $800,000."

Right now, he said the total cost for city employee health insurance is about $8 Million per year, but it's growing.

Larking and city council members like Dr. Gary Miller believe a health clinic would be a win-win for employees and the city.

"The decision has to be made whether it'll be a clinic to be built some place in the city with easy access, staffed by a physician or a nurse practitioner, or whether they contract with a private office or clinic," Dr. Miller said.

Larking said upfront and operating costs for the city health clinic would be between $350,000- $500,000.

"After about a year and a half to two years, in other communities and other areas, it's been shown to have a return on investment," Larking said. "So at that point, we'll break even and then going forward, our total health insurance costs will be reduced."

Larking already has experience with the model. He used to work for a county in North Carolina that had its own clinic.

"I liked the convenience of going over there and not having to pay a copay and [getting] all the healthcare that I needed," he said. "I liked the fact that when we were trying to work on budgets, our health insurance costs didn't increase as much as it would have otherwise increased."

Soon the city will be sending out requests for proposals to those interested in bidding on operating the clinic. Larking said they've already had questions from interested providers.

The health clinic could happen within the next year or it could take a few years. It all depends on the how the process moves along and what council decides.

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