Independent School District 834 may be one step closer to building an on-site district clinic pending the result of some contract negotiations with HealthPartners.
The idea for a clinic was first presented to the board in August shortly after the district went to a self-insured
medical plan in July. Director of Administration Cathy Moen said the district will pay the clinic costs from the self-insured
medical plan reserve fund which is built through monthly contributions by the district and its employees from a portion of their premiums.
The clinic was expected to be completed this month but issues arose in the planning portion of the project, causing a delay. The clinic would be built at Stillwater Area High School in an old classroom that would be renovated into a clinic. The original projected costs for the renovation stood at $95,000. But due to changes in entrances to the clinic in order to create better security for students the accepted bid costs for the renovation project are now $106,350.
The goal of the clinic is to provide care to ISD 834’s employees and their dependents at a lower cost to the district and taxpayers. In three years Moen said the clinic is expected to save the district $279,000 annually in decreased absenteeism costs, pre-work screening costs, decreased worker’s comp costs and a decrease in premiums for the insurance carrier provided that those who are able to use the clinic do so.
Moen said the key to getting the clinic completed is the approval of a contract with HealthPartners that was addressed at Thursday’s meeting.
The clinic’s operating costs under the contract are the same as Moen stated in August: $286,000. The contract would last for three years to begin with and would be renewed annually after that. The only practitioner hired for the clinic costs $13,000/month or $156,000 annually. Costs covered in that amount include salary, benefits, insurance licensure and continued education. Clinic-related expenses are approximately $4,000/month or $46,000 annually as the district would be responsible for lab supplies, clinic supplies, pharmacy administration and facilities, courier and disposal costs. Management fees would cost $7,000/month or $84,000 annually.
Overall the board agreed with the contract, but board member Tom Lehmann expressed concerns about the management fee costs.
“I appreciate all you’ve done with this Cathy to make sure that both employees and the public will be able to benefit from the reduced costs,” Lehmann said. “The only concern I have comes under the management fee. I understand some parts of this fee, like the electronic medical records, but part of that fee includes things like billing, cash and credit card transactions, patient satisfaction surveys, extra clinic staff, medical director staff, and contract management. Some of these things we won’t use. Even though we’re saving money, I have a problem with spending money on items that we don’t need. I know you’ve said all the money saved is money back to the district but why can’t we reduce the cost and increase the savings even more by not paying for some things we won’t be using.”
Moen told Lehmann that she could take the contract back to HealthPartners and clarify what those costs specifically mean, but also asked the board to approve the contract and she could bring back a revised contract to the board at the next meeting. In response to board members Mike Ptacek and Natasha Fleischman’s question about what delaying the vote on the contract would do to the project Moen said:
“Everything hinges on this right now. A vote to table the contract would push everything back another two weeks.”
Construction on the possible clinic is currently slated to begin over spring break to lessen distractions for students.
“I do want the concept to move forward, but it needs to be in the right direction,” Board chairwoman Kathy Buchholz said. “I’m concerned to vote on the contract as is until we see the contract in its final form.”
A motion by George Hoeppner seconded by Natalie Fedie to approve the contract as is failed with the other five board members dissenting.
A second motion to approve the contract pending the negotiation of the $7,000 monthly management fee was passed unanimously. Moen said she would bring what she learned back to the board at the next school board meeting on Jan. 24.