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Wellness clinics, closed-door pharmacy serve casino employees

BILOXI – Amidst growing concerns about the high cost of healthcare and eroding employee benefits, two strong-willed Gulf Coast women decided to do something about it. In February 2000, Susan Bogard of Biloxi and Connie Jordan of Pass Christian started CS Med Analysis to operate wellness clinics for casinos.

With employers and employees eager to bring down healthcare costs, business is booming, and now the women run 14 clinics – nine casinos on the Coast, one each in Lula, Natchez and Vicksburg, and one each in Kansas City and Booneville, Mo. They are also preparing to open a clinic at the Isle of Capri in Lake Charles, La., which will give them a total of six Isle properties.

In an unprecedented move, CS Med Analysis opened a closed-door pharmacy in Biloxi in August 2003 as an outgrowth of the clinics and to better serve employees of their gaming clients. Six Coast casinos split the costs of operating the Howard Avenue pharmacy. No sales are made to the general public.

“We’re trying to help every way we can,” said Jordan. “Suzie and I are not getting rich, but we feel good about what we’re doing. We have some excellent people working with us who are proud to be a part of it.”

Bogard sees their work as a ministry. “We feel this is what healthcare should be about,” she said. “We didn`t intend to become as large as we are, but this is a goal that we have to accomplish together with our clients to keep costs down.”

Jordan, who worked many years as an R.N., says there are pharmacists and physicians who are not happy with CS Med Analysis’ clinics and pharmacy. They were even investigated by the State Board of Pharmacy. Many, however, have the same goals as Bogard and Jordan and are developing relationships with them.

“If anyone could stand in that pharmacy and hear the stories we hear they would be glad we’re doing what we’re doing,” Bogard said. “People cry because they’re so happy they can get their medication. One man had been carrying a prescription around in his pocket for eight months because he couldn`t afford to have it filled.”

She added that the money people save on medication goes back into the economy, as they are now able to purchase goods and services for their families.

The pharmacy employs two pharmacists, two technicians and two counter workers and is open Monday through Friday. According to Bogard, the store is filling close to 500 prescriptions each day for insured casino employees on their healthcare cards – no money is taken in. They do not dispense any schedule II drugs such as Oxycontin. Large supplies of medications are not kept in stock and employees must give the store 72 hours notice for certain maintenance drugs.

“We will never sell items other than prescribed medications because that would not save the casinos any money,” Bogard said. “The casinos pay only what the medicines cost and we invoice them weekly.”

She said the pharmacy is operated as an amenity for the casinos in an effort to lower medical claims. CS Med Analysis runs the drug store and clinics only for casinos because those are the only self-insured businesses on the Coast, she said.

“It`s a non-profit business. The participating casinos pay the rent, utilities and salaries but it is saving them money in claims,” Bogard said. “We have no plans to open any more pharmacies at this time.”

She stressed that they are not competing with private pharmacies and clinics with their closed-door pharmacy and wellness clinics.

Jordan said the pharmacy is a win/win situation for the casinos and their employees because both pay lower costs. “We’ve seen that when it comes down to putting food on the table or buying medicine, employees do not buy medicine. We’re trying to help every way we can.”

She said that for those who can`t afford even their costs for medications, CS Med Analysis employees will help these people fill out paperwork for indigent programs.

The Biloxi Isle of Capri benefits manager, Sandy McVey, said, “Our employees will kill for that pharmacy. Some are saving $200 a month on medications. As an example, a lady working in our employee dining room was taking her hypertension medicine every other day because she couldn`t afford it every day.”

McVey, who`s been with the Isle since 1992, says employees are also pleased with CS Med`s wellness clinics, especially single mothers who can use the clinic for themselves and their children.

“We do encourage everyone to get a primary physician, but every industry will have to fight back to keep insurance or employees will have no benefits,” she said.

Beau Rivage Casino`s benefits manager, Angela Alley, says the 3,200-employee casino has been under contract with CS Med Analysis to run a wellness clinic for employees and their dependents for three years. The clinic is staffed by nurse practitioners who take care of pre-employment drug testing and anything that`s not serious.

“It`s great and our employees utilize it like crazy,” she said. “The staff is so nice and shows concern for employees. It`s all a way to reduce costs of healthcare, and it`s a way for early detection of illnesses.”

Alley notes that part-time casino employees, who are not eligible for health insurance, can use the clinic. No acute care is given and the clinic is always referring to physicians, she said.

“For minor things, it`s good that employees can see someone, get in and out and back to work in little time rather than waiting days or weeks to see a doctor,” she added.

All of the clinics offer lab work and screenings such as pap smears, glucose tests and prostrate screenings for employees who were not getting these services.

“We’re finding cases of diabetes and diagnosed several cases of prostrate cancer,” Jordan said. “The goal is for everyone to benefit and we’re seeing that happen.”

She says that because of the clinics, casino employees are not putting off getting care early and can bring in their children for minor concerns. She feels this often eliminates unnecessary visits to emergency rooms.

Educating people in preventative ways is also important. Classes like breast self-examinations are offered every month with an emphasis on awareness. April is cancer awareness month. May is for hepatitis and osteoporosis awareness.

Bogard said, “Our clinics are just wellness clinics, not primary care. We are not open 24/7, we do not admit to hospitals and we find physicians for people all the time.”

Both Bogard and Jordan stated that many of the people they see do not have insurance, therefore were not seeing physicians anyway and were not getting medications.

Their work has been challenging and at times difficult, but they say they truly believe in what they’re doing, feeling it`s a great service to the community. They also believe their services help casinos have less of an employee turnover rate.

Bogard and Jordan purchased land on Pass Road in Biloxi where they will build a 5,000-square-foot facility that will be a one-stop shop clinic. It will be open by the end of the year.

“Our goal is for everyone to benefit, and we’re seeing that happen,” Jordan said.

Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at mbj@msbusiness.com.

About Lynn Lofton

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