Tyson Joins Growing List of Companies to Open Employee Health Clinics

Employee Benefits placard with bokeh background

Tyson Foods announced a partnership with Marathon Health to pilot health clinics for employees and their families.

Seven clinics are set to open near company production facilities in 2021, serving most eligible team members at no cost. The move is to encourage employees to get primary care before a problem gets more expensive to treat. Deductibles on some employer plans have been increasing and enrollees may avoid care to avoid out of pocket costs.

The Tyson clinics will be open to employees, their spouses, and dependents over age 2. Locations will open starting 2021, with one in Storm Lake, Iowa, home to two Tyson Food plants and more than 3,300 employees, and near the company’s Holcomb, Kansas plant, where more than 3,300 work. Other locations include Wilkesboro, North Carolina and Lexington, Nebraska. The final three locations will be announced later this year.

Tyson employs nearly 150,000 people and requires all regular, full-time employees to enroll in health care plans. Coverage can be acquired through Tyson Foods or a family member’s company-sponsored plan.

Keeping Workers Healthy

“On-site health clinics are a smart move for almost any employers,” says Philip Eskew,  D.O., J.D., founder of DPC Frontier and policy advisor to The Heartland Institute, which publishes Health Care News.

The health care system for employers has been problematic for decades, Eskew says.

“Employers are sold insurance plans by brokers, and these brokers often offer few options and fail to disclose their sources of revenue to these employers,” Eskew said. “Insurance companies and hospitals fail to display prices and are secretive and deceptive negotiated ‘discounts.’”

In September, Tyson made announced an unconventional way of managing COVID-19 health by using an algorithm to determine who and how often to test for the virus at its facilities.

The pandemic was an opportunity to double down on a new approach to health care, says Derek Burleson, a spokesperson for Tyson.

“We’re piloting the clinics as part of our efforts to promote a culture of health that results in a healthier workforce,” Burleson said. “The community clinic pilot project began in 2019, well before the pandemic. We’re constantly assessing the benefits our team members receive and finding new ways to best support their needs.”

Employers are finding quality and accessible health care can positively impact productivity and success in the workplace. A study published in 2015 in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine tracked a hypothetical $10,000 investment in workplace health and safety helped companies outperform the S&P 500 index over a 13- to 15-year period.

Keeping Bottom Lines Healthy

Employers are tired of quality care issues affecting employees’ health while health care costs rise,  Eskew says.

“This has resulted in escalating benefits costs for employers year over year, and health outcomes are not improving,” Eskew said. “Employers are powerless to force hospital-employed physicians operating in the third-party fee for service system to instead switch to a direct primary care model. So, their rational next step is to either direct their employees to a DPC physician in the community or open up a DPC clinic on-site for their employees.”

Tyson joins the ranks of other big-name companies opening health clinics for its employees. In August, Amazon’s announced the rollout of 20 health clinics across five regions in the U.S. near fulfillment centers. The spread of direct primary care health centers is a growing trend of companies with self-funded health insurance.

“These health centers provide services that engage eligible members in healthy lifestyle choices and enable them to become better stewards of their health,” Burleson said. “Instead of waiting until something goes wrong to see the doctor, we want to help team members avoid getting sick in the first place. Convenient scheduling and longer appointments at little or no cost to our team members will enable them to better take control of their health.”

The devil is in the details, Eskew says.

“Some clinics are mere band-aid stations where clinical staff provide only a small amount of urgent care and occupational care services but lack sufficient training to offer broad scope primary care services that make a real difference in the proper identification and management of chronic conditions,” Eskew said. “The greatest value of the on-site clinic is to engage in effective chronic care and preventive care.”

Burleson agrees.

“Our top priority is the health and safety of our team members, their families, and our communities,” Burleson said. “We’re committed to helping them live healthier lives at work and at home.”

Ashley Bateman (bateman.ae@googlemail.com) writes from Alexandria, Virginia.








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