APRIL 30, 2015 – Delta Star’s health care costs have increased about 10 percent annually for the last three to four years. Looking forward, Chief Financial Officer Steven Jones had predicted the company’s costs would double within seven years.
So in January, Delta Star turned the tables on the health care industry, crafting a two-year direct primary care benefits package with Collaborative Health Partners of Virginia — on top of the medical insurance already in place — to provide employees free primary care.
The plan costs the company more than $13,300 per month.
Collaborative Health Partners of Virginia is a clinically integrated network with more than 50 independent physicians in the Lynchburg area.
The deal, which went into effect April 1, has local self-insured companies watching to see if enhancing health care — rather than cutting benefits — is the answer to health care’s constantly rising costs.
“This is totally opposite from what the rest of the business world is doing,” Jones said, “We just like to do things a little differently and we’re willing to take some risks in order to do that.”
“We realize health care costs are not going to go down, but if we can get the increases down to 3 percent” that would be a significant achievement, saving the company several hundred thousand dollars annually, Jones said. He added Delta Star now is spending health care dollars on its 350 employees in a smarter way.
Collaborative Health Partners of Virginia began approaching local self-insured companies last year with its direct primary care plan.
Delta Star was the first to sign on.
Jed Constantz, chief operating officer of Employer Advantage Health Care Solutions, the claims analysis firm that helped Collaborative Health Partners and Delta Star come together, said the arrangement improves things for everyone in a very balanced way.
“But we only find that kind of employer in one-in-six is as bright and forward thinking as Delta Star,” Constantz said.
A Lynchburg-based health care management company, Collaborative Health Partners is a clinically integrated network that takes on the business side of medical practice so its independent physicians are free to focus on patient care.
Customized to meet the needs of each company, Collaborative Health Partners’ Direct Primary Care plan blankets the health insurance already in place, covering up the kind of holes — like co-pays — that might prevent employees from visiting providers for care early, before it becomes a costly emergency.
“We set it up so it would be an enhancement to their benefit offering,” said Shawn Crawford, chief executive officer of Collaborative Health Partners of Virginia. The program works in sync with Piedmont Community Health Plan, owned by Centra Health.
“We’re not offering them an insurance plan, we’re just offering them a range of services,” he said.
Each month, employers pay an “advance-of-care-payment” for participants and that fixed fee covers the costs of their care.
“What we’re trying to do is eliminate the barriers,” Crawford said, explaining patients with co-pays or high deductibles may not get care for small problems like low blood sugar because of the out-of-pocket cost.
“And a lot of times what happens is that will spiral into something more severe,” he said.
Dr. Mark Kleiner, a physician with Central Virginia Family Physicians working with Delta Star, said the collaboration helps physicians take better care of patients and cut costs for everyone involved. Kleiner is a member of Collaborative Health Partners’ Board of Managers.
In house, Delta Star can conduct health and wellness surveys. That confidential information is then aggregated by Collaborative Health Partners and used to show Delta Star what needs to be done to improve the health of its whole population — such as helping employees manage chronic diseases — and showing physicians how they are doing.
“It’s really simple. We’re trying to do a better job of taking care of the patient,” Kleiner said, explaining the model holds physicians accountable for the care they provide.
Jones said health privacy laws make it impossible for employers to see what is happening with employee health, but the new partnership reveals what is happening to the population as a whole, and indentifies where employers can help.
“If we have healthy employees our absentee [rate] goes down,” they are able to work, make money and fulfill their obligations, Jones said.
“Healthy employees are happy employees.”
So far, 178 Delta Star employees and spouses have signed up for Delta Star Direct Primary Care.
The direct primary care benefit, which employees can sign up for at the beginning of each month, is in addition to the urgent care clinic Delta Star and Babcock & Wilcox have jointly offered employees since 2012.
“We know it’s an investment in our employees … that’s going to pay off,” Jones said.
Did you know?
The Clinically Integrated Network, which started with Central Virginia Family Physicians’ eight regional offices and the Medical Associates of Virginia in December 2013, now includes Physicians Treatment Center and Access Health Care and more than 50 primary care physicians.