Yes, there's a doctor in the house

A physician assistant of family medicine wears a stethoscope.


MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: We all know the hassle of trying to sneak away from work for that trip to the doctor's office. Most of us end up putting it off until it's too late. It turns out this delayed approach to health care is one of the reasons insurance premiums are rising so fast. And that has led to more companies bringing health care in-house as a way to cut costs and take a more preventative approach to health care. Here's Marketplace's Sam Eaton:

SAM EATON: Taking the elevator down to the basement of Harrah's Lake Tahoe casino is an exercise in contrasts. Below the whirling slot machines and smoky bars are the whitewashed halls of a medical clinic that's still less than a year old.

With about 3,800 Harrah's employees to look after, Dr. William Everts has his hands full. He says most of the casino workers rarely saw a doctor before the clinic opened. They just didn't have the time.

Steve Monteverde says that's no longer an excuse.

STEVE MONTEVERDE: Oh I was in here 20 minutes, I'm on my lunch break and I'll go back up when I'm done.

Back to the slot department, where Monteverde has worked for 15 years. The difference now is that he didn't have to take time off to see his regular doctor for something as minor as an irritated eye.

MONTEVERDE: My doctor's hard to get into so it takes weeks, possibly a month to get in there to see him and he's only there three days a week so this makes it more convenient.

Not just convenient — cheaper too.

Harrah's saves anywhere from 5 to 15 percent in medical costs by treating Monteverde in-house.

But Dr. Everts says the real savings come from prevention. The clinic recently held a voluntary health screening fair to check employees for preventable diseases.

DR. WILLIAM EVERTS: 535 people participated in that. Of the 535 people there were only 105 "normals."

The rest were positive for early signs of diabetes, high blood pressure and thyroid and liver problems.

Everts says helping people address those issues now is about more than just the bottom line.

DR. EVERTS: It's like taking the herd that's ready to run over the cliff and they're far enough back and we can change their course and keep them viable members of the community.

But altruism isn't the reason more and more companies are embracing onsite clinics.

Kirby Bosley is a corporate health care consultant with Watson Wyatt Worldwide. She says the economics of businesses taking health care into their own hands is only improving.

KIRBY BOSLEY: As health care costs have increased, the cost of running an on-site clinic proportionately has decreased. And so suddenly there's cost viability for putting this on-site.

Bosley predicts 30 percent of Fortune 1000 companies will have some form of on-site health care by the end of the year.

In South Lake Tahoe, I'm Sam Eaton for Marketplace.

About the author

Sam Eaton is an independent radio and television journalist. His reporting on complex environmental issues from climate change to population growth has taken him all over the United States and the world.


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