On-Site Medical Care Cuts Absences, Study Says

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By Kristen Ricaurte Knebel

Oct. 14 — Employers offering health-care benefits such as on-site medical clinics had far fewer “incidental absences” per employee, according to a study released Oct. 14 by the National Business Group on Health.

Employers offering on-site health clinics to all of their employees have an average of fewer than five incidental absences—something the study defines as sick days or unplanned paid time off—for every employee each year, according to the study. But employers with limited or no access to the clinics have an unplanned absence rate of more than 20 workdays per employee annually, the NBGH said. The study was conducted with Truven Health Analytics.

Sixty percent of surveyed employers offer on-site medical clinics, with manufacturers being the most likely to offer them (86 percent), the NBGH said.

One thing that might trip up employers and employees who are enjoying the benefits of the clinics is the Affordable Care Act's “Cadillac” tax, a 40 percent excise tax on the portion of annual health plan costs that exceed certain thresholds. The limits are currently set at $10,200 for individuals or $27,500 for families, and will be indexed to inflation.

Clinics Must Be Counted Toward Cadillac Tax

The tax is set to take effect in 2018, and costs for operating an on-site medical clinic are included in the calculation of the tax. This means employers must carefully consider how opening or expanding an existing clinic might affect their health-care costs, according to the study.

Employers spent an average of $10,370 per employee on health benefits in 2014, according to the study. Those costs varied by industry, but the difference is most likely due to workforce composition and generosity of benefits, the study said.

On-site health clinics didn't have an impact on the average cost of group health coverage; employers with and without such clinics had “nearly identical” average costs, according to the study.

The NBGH said it has been difficult to find a connection between the offering of on-site health clinics and lower overall health-care costs. But offering on-site clinics can give employees access to “better care” and lead to increased worker productivity because employees don't have to leave work to go to the doctor, the NBGH said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kristen Ricaurte Knebel in Washington at kknebel@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Phil Kushin at pkushin@bna.com

More information on the report can be found at http://empaq.org.