Medical program nets $1.36 million in savings for school employees

Employees of the Biloxi Public School District saved more than $1.3 million in medical expenses last year, thanks to a program the school launched in October 2006.

Biloxi was the first school district in the state to initiate such a program, and, as a result of its success, similar programs have been launched by Harrison County, Pass Christian, Long Beach and Gulfport school districts, as well as the cities of Long Beach and Gulfport. The city of Biloxi is also considering a program for its employees and dependents.

Under the program, a local firm, Medical Analysis, operates a clinic staffed by a nurse practitioner and dispenses low-cost prescription medication, eliminating visits and fees for visits to a doctor’s office or drug store. The program is also expected to reduce the cost of health insurance premiums the school district pays.

A report to the school board last week showed that the clinic averaged 454 visits per month from the district’s 750 employees and their dependents, or an average of 5.59 visits per employee in 2007.

“When we first began looking into this program, our thinking was to address those illnesses that were the most common causes of teacher absenteeism,” Dr. Paul A. Tisdale said. “This program allows the teachers or other district employees and their immediate family to get in and out of the clinic quickly, eliminates the fee for a doctor’s office visit, and in many cases the patient can leave with their medication instead of having to visit a pharmacy, or, in the case of Biloxi schools, medications are delivered to employees twice a week.”

Employees saved more than $436,000 in office visit payments, more than a half-million dollars in fees for lab tests, and more than a quarter-million dollars in medication costs.

“This is a wellness program,” Tisdale said. “It helps keep teachers and other district employees healthy and on the job and dramatically reduces the cost they pay on health-related expenses.”

Suzi Bogard of Medical Analysis said the program initially began in the local casino industry, and Medical Analysis now provides the service nationwide for the Isle of Capri.

“It’s a win-win situation,” Bogard said. “It saves the employer and employee money.”

The savings were immediate and substantial, she said, citing the case of a teacher who visited the doctor a month before the Med-Analysis contract was in place and sought treatment again a month after the contract was underway.

“She thought she was having an appendicitis attack and went to a hospital,” Bogard said. “They drew two lab tests, which were $1,924. They decided she had a urinary tract infection, so they sent her to the local pharmacy for medicine.

“Under her insurance, she had to pay the first $500, her deductible, for the lab tests, and 20 percent of the rest of the $1,924. The school and the state had to pay the difference. Then, she had to visit the drug store, get the prescription filled and pay for the medication.”

Under the Biloxi school’s plan with Medical Analysis, when the teacher’s ailment re-occurred, the clinic performed the two lab tests for free, diagnosed the ailment and the patient paid only $6, for the medication, which she had in hand before she left the clinic.

Said Tisdale: “With the success of this program, we’re now working to reduce the insurance premiums for the district and its employees to realize even more savings.”