September 4, 2012

City of Columbia Launches New Healthcare "Philosophy"

Columbia, SC (WLTX) - After more than a year of planning on Tuesday, the City of Columbia, Doctors Care, and South Carolina BlueCross BlueShield held a ribbon cutting ceremony for a brand new facility.

Organizers say the New Employee Health Center isn't the average doctor's office, and believe the center will set an example for other facilities across the county.

"This is more than just a new healthcare facility," said Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin, "this is a new philosophy."

At a press conference, Benjamin told reporters the health facility will be much more comprehensive than most.

"I'm talking about providing a new tool to combat chronic conditions like obesity, high cholesterol, hypertension and diabetes which combine for roughly 70 percent of healthcare costs," Benjamin said.

Part of that 'new tool' includes an intensive 12 week wellness program that aims to reverse medical conditions though diet and nutrition.

"Our City Manager, Steve Gantt,  lost 45 pounds and discharged several prescription medications saving the city roughly $5,000 in the first year," explained Benjamin.

"They tell you what to eat," said Gantt, "what not to eat. You do cardio everyday you do strength training twice a week. I was one of the first guinea pigs! I figured I couldn't ask anyone else to do it if I couldn't do it."

Benjamin believes the facility will reduce overall costs and improve health care for city employees, retirees and their families. He added that the comprehensive care will also mean a  healthier workforce and fewer sick days.

"We save $4 on healthcare costs for every $1 we spend on wellness because by spending a little more time and energy in a doctor's office, we spend a lot less time and money in emergency rooms."

Employees pay into the program however, the cost is minimal. The facility is located at 2012 Harden Street, Columbia.

WLTX - view video and full story here.

By Lauren Talarico