City Hall leaders are making plans to likely become the first city in the state to provide on-site health care for its employees.
The goal is to produce healthier employees and a healthier budget.
"We feel like this is going to give us the opportunity to reduce our insurance costs or at least reduce the likelihood that our costs will increase greatly," Lawrence Mayor Mike Dever said.
City administrators are requesting proposals from area health companies to set up an on-site health clinic that would provide basic medical services to city employees and perhaps their family members.
Frank Reeb, the city's director of administrative services, said the clinic would be in one of the city-owned buildings, although it may not be in City Hall.
"We have employees all over the city, so we'll just have to pick a location that does the best job of meeting the needs of our work force," Reeb said.
The city expects to have proposals in hand by early October. The city for 2009 has budgeted up to $225,000 in startup costs for the program. It doesn't yet have an estimate for ongoing operational costs. The proposals should shed light on those costs.
But Reeb said the city is willing to spend money on the program if there's a chance that it could slow the rising cost of providing health insurance to the city's approximately 775 full-time employees.
In 2009, costs for the city's health care plan are expected to increase by about 10 percent, or an additional $635,000.
Reeb said the city began looking at creating an on-site clinic after seeing several private companies taking that approach to control health care costs. Some studies, he said, have indicated the city could save $2 to $5 in health insurance costs for every dollar it spends on the program.
Reeb said some cities in other states have started to create the clinics, but he said he wasn't aware of any Kansas communities that had taken the step.
The clinic likely would be staffed by a nurse practitioner or similar type of health care professional. The clinic isn't planned to be a substitute for an employee's primary care physician, but it would be equipped to handle many common ailments.
"One idea is that when an employee or perhaps even one of their dependents has a cold or has flu-like symptoms, they'll be able to get in and see a professional quickly, which is good for everyone," Reeb said.
The city also plans to use the clinic to do a "front-end assessment" of employees. The assessment could include testing that would alert employees to potentially serious problems such as high cholesterol, heart problems or diabetes.
City employees may be given a break on their monthly insurance premiums if they sign up to take the assessment.
Depending on the cost estimates, the city hopes to have the on-site clinic open by early 2009.