Employees in the U.S. have dealt with barriers to healthcare for decades. They often find that, while they do have insurance plans available through their employers, these plans can position care as unaffordable and inaccessible. If an employee is covered at a clinic or medical facility that’s sixty or more minutes away from work, for example, the need of taking time off to travel and get a check-up can outweigh personal wellness needs and lead to care-avoidance or stress. Traditional insurance options and payment models have also faced employers with considerable financial risk and high deductibles, while their employees still must deal with the stress of costly, inaccessible health care.
Because of these types of concerns, many companies are now seeking to take on healthcare themselves. One alternative some businesses have begun investigating is an on-site or near-site employer-sponsored health center. These centers provide employees with easy access to care at little or no cost. But are they as helpful as traditional care options? Do they truly overcome the obstacles that employees face through standard insurance plans?
The Barriers to Traditional Healthcare
Employees and employers have had to deal with a myriad of different barriers to healthcare in recent years. Despite the promise of bundled payments and the emergence of new payment models, the affordability and, therefore, accessibility to care is one of the most prominent challenges facing today’s patient/employer platform. The costs of medical services typically increase by an annual average of five percent above the rate of inflation, and these costs are getting out of control.
As the U.S. population’s average lifespan increases and today’s economy pushes more and more aging individuals to postpone retirement and continue working, both patients and employers are starting to pay attention to the physical and financial severity of chronic conditions. In the U.S., healthcare providers and the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) are seeing more and more patients who are being diagnosed with diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and other chronic conditions that often require lifelong medication and longitudinal treatment. These conditions, while to some degree preventable, only add to employee medical expenses.
In addition to costs, the current healthcare system is not generally convenient. Simply going to a primary care physician for a minor issue involves taking time off work and spending sometimes as much as half a day or more in a waiting room. For many employees in industries that are highly deadline-driven, this can be very stressful. Some may even put off scheduling doctor’s visits due to work commitments.
Finally, there’s the American healthcare system, which currently focuses more upon treating those who have been diagnosed with conditions than encouraging disease-prevention and wellness strategies. There is little access to preventative care, and, when there is, it’s not always covered by insurance.
Seeking Answers from Clinics, Not HR Departments
Traditionally, if employees had questions about their healthcare plans, they would speak to someone in an HR department. While human resources professionals often handle the healthcare plan options for companies, they aren’t usually experts in healthcare, and they may not always know how to advise employees. Today, the focus has shifted to clinics and advocacy services. Employees can contact these experts directly and receive help from professionals in healthcare who understand insurance.
Besides providing employees with better answers, shifting to advocacy services also frees up HR departments to focus on other work, which ultimately helps relieve stress on HR professionals and a company as a whole.
Another solution is Near-Site or even On-Site Clinics. Near-Site Clinics are medical facilities located near an employer. This allows employees to visit with physicians without long travel times. Their families can also make use of these facilities. Near-Site Clinics often service multiple companies, so the cost of these clinics can be shared, giving small businesses the opportunity to join them.
On-Site Clinics, on the other hand, are clinics located at a company. Usually, this is only an option for large corporations, since the business is often responsible for all of the costs of the clinic. However, this can be convenient for employees because there’s no need for them to travel off-site for medical care. These clinics also can provide on-site treatment for medical emergencies or accidents.
Various factors play into what type of healthcare an employer offers, including the company’s site, industry field, budget, location, and the available healthcare options. These are just some of the factors employers have to assess when considering insurance, healthcare options, and alternative payment models.
Why On-Site and Near-Site Clinics Are Becoming More Popular
Many employers have started shifting to the use of clinics. This type of health care reform offers a number of benefits in addition to those listed above. For both employers and employees, these clinics often provide lower rates for service which help curb today’s ever-increasing medical costs. With the ease of access and convenience, employees no longer spend hours waiting to see a physician. For the employer, this means less leave time, allowing employees to be more productive.
Clinics, even on-site clinics, also cost less in the long term. While they are an investment and require employers to assume the overhead costs of operating clinics, they also provide a very high return on investment. Employees are healthier, seek medical treatment for chronic conditions, and have more access to services designed to help prevent illness. From an employer’s point of view, this results in less absenteeism and financial risk due to illness.
Employers are also providing on-site clinics because they are an attractive benefit to both current and prospective employees. Having on-site health care is a new-age perk that many companies don’t offer, which positions those who do at the front of today’s competitive talent-search.
For employees, the chance to have medical experts assist them with questions, provide care, and increase their access to healthcare is very valuable. On-site and near-site clinics don’t simply make it easier for employees to see physicians — they give employees a reason to seek healthcare more often. For many, this results in increased levels of health.
As healthcare costs increase, and with little health care reform addressing those increases, employers must look for other options. Near-site and on-site clinics, with their many benefits to both employers and employees, may very well be among the best alternatives as a result of their high ROI and benefits.