by Tammy Sakry
In an attempt to improve employees’ lives and reduce their medical costs, the St. Francis School District 15 is opening its own medical clinic.
Through Neopath Health, the district is hoping to open a 1,000 square-foot clinic at St. Francis High School in early February, said Human Resources Director David Lindberg.
“We are shooting for having the (medical doctor) on site in early January to make visits to the different buildings,” he said.
The doctor will not be performing any procedures or exams until the clinic is open, but the doctor will be meeting with staff to answer questions and sign up employees for Hello Health, an online scheduling and patient management database.
Once open, the clinic will offer 30-minute doctor appointments one day a week and a licensed practical nurse will be on duty twice a week to do scheduling, blood draws and prescription dispensing, including free generic drugs.
Only district employees working 1,020 hours or more a year and retirees with District 15 health insurance will be eligible to use the clinic, Lindberg said.
“It is too expensive to include all employees at first. Doing it this way will allow us to gauge interest rather than gamble that it will be accepted 100 percent right away,” he said
It would cost about $750,000 to offer it to everyone, he said.
In the future, dependents may be able to use the clinic, said Superintendent Ed Saxton during the Dec. 12 school board meeting.
The cost of the clinic is $250,000 per year/per day the physician is on duty.
The district is using the additional $50 per student approved by the state Legislature in July to start the program, Lindberg said.
Employees are not required to use the clinic or change doctors, but the clinic could pay for itself in two years depending on how many sign up it, he said.
“We will be monitoring… how many eligible employees sign up for service… and analyzing the cost-benefit information” before considering offering it to all employees, Lindberg said.
The new clinic is based on programs started in the Brooklyn Center and Farmington school districts.
Brooklyn Center started its program two years ago and Farmington six months ago.
“The satisfaction of their administration and staff played a big part (in District 15’s decision). This idea is a cornerstone in the long-term health care strategy,” Lindberg said.
So did “the clinic’s impact on health insurance per member per month cost (which decreased) in a short amount of time allowing (Brooklyn Center) to obtain favorable bids for health insurance and a nice subsidy from the carrier for the clinic,” he said.
“As for saving the district money, (the district) only cover(s) the office visits, illness and self-insurance,” Lindberg said.
“The idea is to save money on claims by having a clinic (with) fixed costs, instead of begging Health Partners for a decrease (during) negotiations,” he said in a video introducing the district’s long-term health care strategy to employees.
“The other savings, like (reducing the need for) substitutes, is harder to quantify because it hinges on the adoption rate of the clinic and overall usage.”
As deductibles have increased from $500 in 2001 to $5,000 in 2011, employees began going to the doctor less because it was expensive or dropping insurance to pay household bills, Lindberg said in the video.
At the same time, the district noticed when people did go to the doctor it was for more serious illnesses and employees were hospitalized more often, he said.
When the district negotiates for health insurance, “the more expensive care makes the district look like someone trying to get car insurance during an accident. It’s very expensive,” Lindberg said in the video.
Employee hospitalizations increased from 29 percent in 2001 to 32 percent in 2010, while office visits dropped from 36 percent in 2001 to 28 percent in 2010.
“The district is not as healthy as it could be…,” Lindberg said.
At its Dec. 12 meeting, the school board unanimously approved Health Partners to be the third party processer of medical claims and for stop-loss insurance.
In essence, it makes the district a self-insurer, according to Lindberg.
The district was writing a premium check of $500,000 a month to Health Partners to process and pay claims.
Now the district will pay the claims and keep the money until it’s paid out, Lindberg said in the video.
The stop-loss insurance will pay for anything beyond the medical cost aggregate cap the district will set for serious illnesses, he said.
Lindberg said the changes are being done to create healthier employees and to save money.
“We… think a healthier happier workforce is more likely to be satisfied with working at (District) 15. This will also serve to improve our ability to recruit and retain the best people. Ultimately giving students great teachers that are healthy and committed to their success,” he said.
Tammy Sakry is at [email protected]