Marietta chooses Wellstar as new employee health clinic operator

·3 min read

Sep. 20—Cobb's largest healthcare provider will now operate the city of Marietta's employee health clinic.

The Marietta City Council approved a three-year contract with Wellstar for the company to run the clinic, which began operations in 2011 and is available to employees and their dependents on the city's health insurance plan. The city will terminate its contract with the current operator of the clinic, Premise Health, formerly CareHere, on Dec. 31, with the Wellstar contract set to begin the next day and last until Dec. 31, 2025.

The clinic, located in the city's office building at 268 Lawrence Street, offers flu and allergy treatments, wellness exams, immunizations and generic prescription refills, among other services, to city employees and their dependents Monday through Saturday.

Bill Bruton, Marietta's city manager, told the MDJ the city saved a combined $290,000 in 2021 thanks to the clinic, with about $240,000 saved on office visits and labs and the rest on prescription drugs, while city employees saved $144,885 on co-pays and prescription drugs.

"This is compared to what it would have cost our employees to have gone to private doctors' offices for their appointments," Bruton said.

The clinic cost the city $658,288 in fiscal year 2022, according to Bruton, while it was estimated to cost $663,629 under Premise Health for 2023. The city's contract with Wellstar is for $545,000 per year, and the estimated cost of the clinic for next year dropped to $588,000 with the change to Wellstar.

Davy Godfrey, the city's human resources director, told the City Council during its committee meetings Aug. 30 Wellstar will begin seeing patients at the clinic on Jan. 9, 2023.

"Changing clinic providers since we've first had it, it's a big deal," said Godfrey.

Marietta Mayor Steve "Thunder" Tumlin asked Bruton during the meeting if services offered by the clinic, like access to generic drugs, no co-pays for visits and opportunities to schedule appointments online would continue.

Bruton said there would be no change in the clinic's services, though he did say "the staffing (of the clinic) may be a little bit better" due to Wellstar's extensive network. He also noted record-keeping will be more streamlined due to Wellstar's reach throughout Cobb and that the drug list offered by Wellstar will be cost-saving for the city compared to Premise Health's.

Bruton said city staff have been "continually evaluating the clinic" to verify it is saving money and said it does so in two ways.

"One is the actual cost because by doing it the way we're doing it the cost per visit is much lower than if you go out on the market," Bruton said. " ... The other part of it is avoided expenses."

By that, Bruton meant expenses employees avoided by visiting the clinic. He said that the blood work analysis conducted at the clinic had caught "many medical problems in the early stages, saving our employees from having devastating illnesses and avoiding up to $800,000 in future medical expenses."