Patrick B. McGuigan
OKLAHOMA CITY – In less than five months, an Oklahoma County health plan reform has saved several hundred thousand dollars in a program benefiting local employees, CapitolBeatOK has learned.
In March, Jon Wilkerson implemented, after approval of elected county officials, a “stand-alone” benefit for government employees, authorizing use of The Surgery Center of Oklahoma for many common surgical procedures. As of July 17, 89 surgeries had been completed and three more were in line to take place at the north Oklahoma City facility.
Estimated total cost for the 89 surgeries was a combined $335,885.78, according to Wilkerson. Costs at other providers could have reached $910,700, according to information provided to county officials. Savings to the county government health plan for public employees, since late March, totaled $573,814.22. The county government Budget Board received the report last week.
In an email to Dr. G. Keith Smith, an anesthesiologist and co-founder of the Surgery Center, Wilkerson said “the results … we have experienced have surpassed expectations.”
Wilkerson, human resources director for the county government, said, “I have always tried to keep the savings estimate at a conservative level – at that level it looks like we will save about $1.3 million over 12 months of utilization.”
At their Feb. 20 meeting, the budget board approved a “provider services agreement” between the Surgery Center and the county. County Clerk Carolynn Caudill, a Republican, requested approval. The accord’s legality was approved by an assistant district attorney, who works for District Attorney David Prater, a Democrat.
Jonathan Small, vice president for policy at the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, the state's leading free market “think tank,” has encouraged state officials to adopt policies, patterned on Oklahoma County's, allowing government employees to access Surgery Center. However, the idea did not advance in the 2014 legislative session.
Surgery Center of Oklahoma’s posts online an up-front price for medical procedures in diverse areas of practice, including orthopedics, ear/nose/throat, general surgery, urology, ophthalmology, foot and ankle, and reconstructive plastics. In all, a total of 112 procedures are listed. The typical bill at the Surgery Center is a page long, compared to 3-4 pages for the same procedure at a hospital.
NOTE: McGuigan is editor of CapitolBeatOK.com, and associate publisher of The City Sentinel newspaper. His reports on the Surgery Center have appeared worldwide.