Eldorado Resorts doesn’t gamble with employee healthcare

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Chris Wallace, an engineer for Eldorado Resorts, never went to the doctor, and while he had health insurance through his employer, he rarely ever used it.

That changed when the casino entertainment company — which owns casinos including Tropicana and the Row — opened its own nearby medical clinic two years ago in Reno, Nevada. When Wallace, 39, first set foot in the clinic, he quickly learned he wasn’t as healthy as he thought.

“I had not realized that my health was so poor, basically until I went there,” he says. “I thought I was doing fine.”

When Wallace met with the doctor he discovered that he had high blood pressure and cholesterol in addition to being overweight. The doctor prescribed him blood pressure medication, and Wallace signed up for Weight Watchers. Through a combination of lifestyle changes — such as cutting out sugar — and support from the clinic, Wallace was able to drop 45 pounds and improve both his blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

“One of the things I think really helped was the clinic is so easy and accessible to get to,” he says. “It’s just convenient. I end up going to the doctor now regularly, when I would never do that in the past.”

See also: Why onsite clinics worked for Land O’Lakes

Eldorado represents a growing trend among large companies. More than half of large employers have an onsite clinic near one of their offices and another 11% are considering adding them by 2020, according to data from the National Business Group on Health. Large companies including Land O’Lakes, Apple and Amazon have invested in the benefit, which has helped employees better access healthcare and reduce overall company healthcare costs.

Eldorado decided to launch the clinic, which is provided by Activate Healthcare, to save the company and employees money on healthcare, says Cindy Carano, executive director of community relations for the Row. Employees at the three casinos and hotels that make up the Row in Reno — Silver Legacy, Eldorado and Circus Circus — all have access to the free clinic.

After one year with the medical center, Eldorado saved $336,000 with a total member savings of $246,000 in out-of-pocket dollars. Workers also get generic prescriptions for free through the medical center, Carano adds.

The benefit has contributed to significant health benefits for workers, she says. At least 75% of employees with high blood pressure lowered their levels by a noticeable amount, the company reported. Dr. Phillip Zinni, the medical center’s physician, says they primarily treat common health issues including obesity, high cholesterol, blood pressure and high blood sugar levels.

Employees who wouldn’t normally go to the doctor are encouraged to do so at the clinic because it is more convenient for workers who often develop close relationships with the staff, he adds.

“We spend time with them. We listen to them. We understand them, and we try to give options that they could actually incorporate into their life,” Zinni says.

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The clinic has also inspired other wellness benefits. For example, the company overhauled the ingredients, preparation process and portion size of food in the employee dining room to ensure workers were getting the healthiest options.

Miguel Reyes, a chef for the company, helped to change the food in the employee dining room by adding a salad bar and other healthy options. Reyes, who is now an assistant chef for Roxy, a steakhouse at Eldorado, says the medical clinic has had an impact on the food served across the resort. Reyes lost 60 pounds with help from doctors at the medical center when he was diagnosed with hypothyroidism, an autoimmune disease that causes the thyroid to be underactive. As a result, he had to eliminate dairy and gluten from his diet, a move that inspired him to change up some of the foods served at the Roxy.

“The chefs are always more conscious now, more than ever,” he says. “For me, having this sickness allowed me to be more knowledgeable about sickness and customers.”

Reyes says he is grateful for the personal approach Dr. Zinni and others at the clinic took toward helping him manage his hypothyroidism. With the help of the staff, Reyes was able to improve his health and reduce the inflammation around his thyroid.

“I think it was a blessing to me,” he says.

The Row’s Carano says the company has been pleased with the results from the clinic, and plans to look into adding more medical centers at its properties across the country. The medical center also has been a helpful recruitment and retention tool for Eldorado, by allowing workers more timely access to care. Overall employee wellness is the goal, she adds.

“Our employees are our family,” she says. “Of course we need to ensure that they’re healthy.”

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