KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — A health care clinic that offers primary care directly through employers has opened in Kalamazoo.

Marathon Health has opened at 2280 11th St. near Stadium Drive. The center is the eighth network location for Marathon Health, which also offers on-site centers. It has partnered with Kalamazoo County to provide its services to county employees.

“We’re very excited to be launching our first network clinic sites in the Kalamazoo, Michigan market,” Kristin Vargo, the regional vice president of the Midwest for strategy and growth for Marathon Health, told News 8. “We are an employer-based model where we come in and provide full, comprehensive, advanced primary care to employers that sign on with Marathon Health.”

Vargo said the county had started looking to add a health center benefit around five to seven years ago.

“Kalamazoo County truly values our employees,” Kevin Catlin, Kalamazoo County administrator, said in a release. “Our motto is ‘in pursuit of extraordinary governance’; we believe that for our employees to be extraordinary, they have to take ownership of their health. Offering this health clinic as a free benefit to employees really elevates our motto and mission to produce extraordinary results in Kalamazoo County.”

Because Marathon Health is in an independent building, and not on-site, other employers can also sign on to offer the health center as a benefit.

Vargo said many employers are looking to offer that benefit to complement their insurance plans and address a growing need for better access to primary care.

It is paid directly through a contract with the employer, rather than being reimbursed by insurance plans. Vargo said the out-of-pocket costs for patients are little to none.

She explained that when the employer-based health care industry first started to address employee health and safety, this often looked like a manufacturer having a health care provider on-site.

She said the industry has evolved over the last decade.

“It is definitely a movement across the country where employers are bearing a lot of the expenses of health care for their members, and they’re not seeing any improvement in the hospitalization costs, as well as their population really not getting the health and access to care that they need,” she explained. “And so if you’re the payer of this problem, then you’re going to start to really be responsible and take action for this problem, which is why so many employers have now adopted this model.”

Vargo said Marathon Health is looking to continue to expand in Kalamazoo and throughout West Michigan.

“I’m really excited to be launching in Michigan and we are proud to serve other clients with onsite locations throughout Michigan,” she said. “Anyone who would be so interested to have conversations with Marathon and understand what this benefit can do to their health care expenses and adding a valuable benefit to retain and attract the right workforce for their culture, I recommend and highly encourage them to reach out to Marathon Health.”