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Companies turn to in-house health clinics to control skyrocketing health care costs

By Beau Hodai Article From News Target

According to a recent study, the economic strain levied on employers in the U.S. from employee healthcare costs is growing exponentially, leaving many employers scrambling to find alternatives to their present healthcare models.

The study, entitled reducing Corporate Healthcare Costs, released by the Human Capital Practice of Deloitte and Touche, has found that the most common strategy utilized by employers in reigning in healthcare spending has been to pass on the costs to employees.

Employers are encouraging their employees to open health savings accounts (HSAs) into which they can deposit money towards the cost of future medical expenses.

The Corporate Healthcare Coalition is a group comprised of 15 Fortune 100 companies, Dow Chemical and Raytheon among them. Lobbyists representing the interests of the coalition have worked to pass healthcare initiatives since the group's outset in 1993.

Health Coverage for the Uninsured Act of 2005, authored by Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., introduced the concept of HSAs. Many of our members are excited about the potential HSAs have to improve choice and consumerism among their employees, said Andrew Mekelburg, Chairman of the CHCC and Vice President of Federal Government Relations at Verizon Communications. Between 2004 and 2005, CHCC spent $220,000 to insure the passage of the bill, according to opensecrets.org.

Another alternative to present models of corporate healthcare gaining popularity over the past few years is the on-site clinic. Employers such as Pepsi, Dow Chemical, and Raytheon offer primary care, as well as preventative health services, such as routine checkups and blood work, to employees at clinics contained within their facilities.

In limiting health care options to employees, corporations effectively reduce their insurance premiums. Many on-site clinics administer flu shots and dispense prescriptions, decreasing employee absenteeism attributed to appointments with outside doctors. Dow Chemical envisions that due to the efficiency of on-site clinics, that by 2015 there will be less than one hour of work missed to illness or injury out of every 200,000 hours of work, according to the Dow Chemical Company's 2006 sustainability report.

"The truth is, health care costs threaten to bankrupt America's largest companies," said Mike Adams, a consumer health advocate and author of "Natural Health Solutions." "And one of the reasons is because U.S. lawmakers and regulators continue to encourage a pharmaceutical monopoly, outlawing free trade and doing everything in their power to protect a profiteering system of medicine that preys upon American workers," said Adams.

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