- Associated Press - Saturday, June 27, 2015

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (AP) - Huntington Ingalls has broken ground on the HII Family Health Center for some Newport News Shipbuilding employees and their families, on Washington Avenue between 45th and 46th streets, just outside the shipyard’s gates.

The two-story, 20,000-square-foot facility will offer a variety of primary care services, including labs, X-rays, health and wellness services and an on-site pharmacy, to salaried employees and their families who participate in the company’s health care plan.

The facility is one of two being built by Huntington Ingalls and operated by QuadMed as part of a “whole health care strategy” prompted by the Affordable Care Act, according to Bill Ermatinger, corporate vice president and chief human resources officer for Huntington Ingalls. The Mississippi health center, in a rehabbed building, is slated to open this weekend. The brand-new Newport News facility, whose cost Ermatinger declined to reveal, should open by year’s end.

The strategy, which won’t change regardless of the ACA’s fate, was prompted by the law changing the status of health care from an employee benefit to an employer investment, said Ermatinger. With insurance companies no longer able to deny coverage to individuals, the shipbuilding giant was no longer differentiated by its health plan.

He emphasized that the changes, which emphasize patient behavior and accountability and access to care, are in addition to the existing health plan. They give eligible employees additional choices with three options for utilization: their existing doctors; telemedicine introduced eight months ago; and the family health center.

“I personally will probably use all three,” said Ermatinger, noting that he and his family have already used the telemedicine option.

The United Steelworkers of America, Local 8888, has not signed on, which cuts those eligible to use the facility to approximately 25,000 of the 50,000 health-care members, said Ermatinger. “They’re about half the workforce. I would love for them to be a part of this,” he said.

Union president Arnold Outlaw said it’s a change in the contract and hasn’t been presented to members. The main sticking point is over charging smokers an additional $55 on their monthly premiums. “That’s one of the biggest things. We don’t think they should be penalized. Smoking is a disease. They’re not penalizing those who drink,” he said.

Christie Miller, spokeswoman for the shipyard, said that the company has instituted smoking cessation classes to help people kick the habit.

Outlaw also expressed concern about the short timeline given to educate the union’s members, and suggested that the issue might be resolved in future contract negotiations. Meanwhile, the members’ health plan remains intact, but currently excludes access to the center when it opens.

The center will be staffed by medical professionals employed by QuadMed, a 20-year-old employer of on-site health providers. The pharmacy will be managed by CVS.

What’s unique is having everyone in the same building, a “one-stop shop,” and moving away from the fee-for-service model, said Ermatinger. Patients will be charged a $15 flat fee per visit - with no copays or deductibles - which will last from 30 to 60 minutes, with a guaranteed wait time of 10 minutes or less.

“We’re not competing with regular doctors. We’re going to get to the heart of what’s going on. … We won’t just talk about being overweight, we’ll walk you down the hallway to meet with a nutritionist,” he said. “It’s a coordinated care kind of set-up.” At the pharmacy, costs for prescription drugs are set at $3 for a 30-day supply, $6 for 90 days.

Access to telemedicine is also by flat fee - $10 a visit - which compares to the $20 office charge plus co-pays and deductibles for doctor visits under the existing health plan, which will still be available. Virginia’s largest industrial employer, the company is self-insured and uses the Anthem network.

“We’re viewing this as a long-term investment. A lot of families include future shipbuilders. We’re putting them on the right road of healthy living,” said Ermatinger.

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Information from: Daily Press, http://www.dailypress.com/

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