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On-site clinics finding favor with employers

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Worksite health clinics are gaining favor among large employers as a means of reining in health care costs, reducing lost productivity and improving the overall health of their employees, according to a new survey by Mercer L.L.C.

Eighty-five percent of 134 employers that provide general medical services to employees through on-site health clinics said they have seen some measure of success in meeting certain performance goals, according to survey results published by Mercer on Tuesday. The survey was conducted in April and May of this year.

Eighty-seven percent of employers polled said their on-site clinics were “successful” or “very successful” when measured by employee satisfaction, while 73% of employers said the same of their clinics when measured by their utilization rates.

Sixty-three percent of employers said their clinics have been successful in reducing the total number of lost work days among their workforce population, 58% said their clinics helped employees manage chronic conditions, and 54% of employers said their on-site clinics helped reduce modifiable health risks and overall medical costs.

“For many employers, employee satisfaction is a more important measure of success” than return on investment, David Keyt, New York-based principal and practice leader for Mercer's national on-site clinic center of excellence, said in a statement. “If employees are using the clinic, it means they haven't been taking time off work to visit a doctor, and that they're getting the medical care they need to stay healthy and productive.”

Mercer's survey also revealed that relatively few employers — approximately 15% of survey respondents — believe the cost of the care they provide through their on-site clinics will negatively affect their obligations under the health care reform law's 40% excise tax on high-cost plans.

Conversely, 11% of employers believe their clinics will actually reduce the amount they will owe under the excise tax, which takes effect in 2018. Twenty-eight percent of employers polled said they don't think their clinics will have a material impact on their excise tax obligations, while 46% said they weren't sure what effect their clinics will have regarding their tax calculations.

“Employers are definitely concerned that the operational costs of a worksite clinic could help push them over the threshold for the excise tax, although most remain convinced that the clinic will deliver positive net value,” Mr. Keyt said in the release. “We're eager to see further regulations clarifying specifically how clinic costs will be treated.”