Central Fla. cities push for city-owned health care clinics

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CENTRAL FLORIDA —

In an effort to save taxpayer money, mayors and council members across central Florida are asking to start their own health care clinics.

CareHere is a company that's helped local cities, counties and school districts open their own health care centers for employees, retirees and their families.

"The average cost for a regular visit -- the difference is about 50 percent less to have it done at our health center here," said Joe Carnicella of CareHere in Ocoee.

In addition to Ocoee, there are CareHere clinics in Sanford, Lake Mary, Apopka and one coming soon in Kissimmee. They are all free to employees of those cities and their families.

"Every service that we have here, all the primary care that you would receive at a regular physician's office, we do here and it's free to the employee and their dependents," Carnicella said.

He said when the clinic opened in 2008, health care costs for Ocoee were projected to skyrocket from $3.5 million to nearly $6 million. Instead, health care costs for the city haven't increased at all.

"The doctors and the staff get paid an hourly rate to see as many patients as they can," Carnicella said.

Doctors at CareHere clinics get more time to talk to patients. They're allotted 20 minutes with each person. Most clinics offer about five minutes with the doctor.

Most clinics are paid by insurance companies, but at CareHere clinics doctors, nurses, X-ray technicians and other workers only work for their municipality.

"It's really brought me back to why I went into medicine -- to just focus on patient care and not think about insurance and getting authorizations and doing what I think is right for the patient," said Ocoee city physician Dr. Roberta Chung.

Municipal CareHere clinics are also one-stop shopping – X-rays, blood work, rehabilitation and a pharmacy are available right in the clinic.