City of Waukesha questioning shared health clinic with school district, county

Published on: 3/19/2014

In order for the shared health clinic to become a reality on the Waukesha County Courthouse campus for three governmental bodies, all have to approve it.

So far, that hasn't been so easy — at least on the city's front.

The Waukesha School District took the first step in approving an intergovernmental agreement for the clinic at its school board meeting last week. The county was taking up the matter at meetings this week and could sign off on the clinic, which would be located at 615 W. Moreland Blvd. in the former county health building, at its Tuesday board meeting.

Meanwhile, Norm Cummings, the county's director of administration, said it could take "a while" before the city takes action on this item.

"They got this controversy," Cummings said. "The mayor invited ProHealth in and it's basically slowing down in the process. There was a lot of misconceptions."

Misconceptions began when Mayor Jeff Scrima emailed city employees on March 6. In Scrima's email, he told employees over time city employees will be required to use this clinic for examinations and health services to meet the county's projected cost savings.

"My opinion is that the county is trying to force this new government health clinic through, in order to save themselves money on the backs of city and school district employees," Scrima said. "This would likely be at the expense of quality and employee choice for such health services."

A week later, City Administrator Ed Henschel emailed all city employees saying that's not the case.

"From the very beginning we have been clear that employees and their families will not be required to use the clinic," Henschel wrote on March 11. "The clinic will be an alternative or option for you and your family."

Healthstat chosen

The process to have a shared medical clinic began in October 2012 when the three entities partnered together to conduct a feasibility study. In July 2013, Scrima signed a resolution saying the city supported partnering with the district and county and to continue with requesting proposals.

Twelve health care providers submitted Requests for Proposals (RFPs) before the North Carolina-based Healthstat was selected by the three governmental entities on Jan. 27, 2014.

Healthstat and the consultant then gave a presentation to the city before a Feb. 20 Common Council meeting where they informed the city the shared clinic is estimated to save the county about $3 million, the school district $3.4 million and the city $1.2 million for a total of about $7.7 million over the five-year period, the length of the joint agreement. The clinic would cost $45 for an office visit compared to its current $112 health plan.

The governmental bodies scheduled a timeline to vote on the agreement with Healthstat in March with the city scheduled for March 18.

ProHealth brought in

That, however, didn't happen, because the city is now asking an alternative proposal from ProHealth Care, one of the losing vendors that wasn't even a finalist (top five). ProHealth Care once again became involved in this process after Scrima invited their representatives to give a presentation at the March 4 Common Council meeting where they stated why a shared clinic for the city isn't the best option.

"I have been in contact with ProHealth Care for the last few months and they believe they have an alternative solution that was outside the scope of the RFP," Scrima said. "They offered to provide city employees the same quality health care that they provide to their employees and families that matches or exceeds the cost savings that we would get if we went with the proposed clinic on the county grounds. We're being open-minded and prudent to take our time and consider all the options."

Scrima also questions that since the proposed clinic is "voluntary," what the financial implications will be to the city if all employees voluntarily choose not to use it.

City of Waukesha mayoral candidate Shawn Reilly blasted Scrima on delaying the process.

"Jeff's attempted hijacking of city workers' health care is reminiscent of a daytime TV drama," Reilly said. "But the employees and citizens of Waukesha are not actors and their lives and livelihoods are impacted by Jeff's lack of leadership and poor judgment. This is just another example of how city taxpayers and city employees have suffered over the last four years.

"Due to Scrima's antics, the city is now unlikely to act in a timely fashion on the shared clinic proposal."

Asked what he thought of Reilly's response, Scrima said "it's campaign season and he's trying to create news for himself."

Henschel responds

Henschel said on Friday he didn't know why the mayor invited ProHealth Care CEO Susan Edwards to the recent meeting when they lost the bid and why he's being asked by Scrima to address a referral made by Alderwoman Kathleen Cummings to have ProHealth Care present their alternative proposal to all city employees, the Human Resources Committee, Finance Committee and Common Council.

"A lot of smoke is being created without much substance," Henschel said. "There was a referral asking me to compare the Healthstat proposal with the ProHealth proposal. I don't have a ProHealth proposal. It violates my personal sense of ethics. I'm not going to ask them. They lost. Move on. I don't understand why this has become such a big issue."

Henschel added that if the city gained only half of the amount of savings projected, the deal is still "a no-brainer."

Norm Cummings also sent a letter to Scrima and the Common Council on March 6 saying he understands the health industry has become a very competitive business but "that is no reason to allow one of the providers to submit a proposal in the eleventh hour. This is the kind of action that can draw objectivity and the appropriate use of public dollars into question."

Cummings told them the clinic will be available to all insured employees and their families. And under the proposal the entities will continue to have the option of receiving health services elsewhere. The facility being proposed has been vacant since the county's Public Health Division was relocated to the new Health and Human Service building last year.

The cost of operations would be shared in proportion to the eligible members of each entity with the school district paying 44 percent, county 40 and city 16.

Board addresses clinic

School Board member Steve Edlund, who along with Karin Rajnicek voted against the intergovernmental agreement, was concerned about the "logistics" of the shared clinic saying he was worried it wouldn't be able to handle all three entities. Rajnicek said she's not "100 percent sure anymore" due to the developments with the city.

"There's been no discussion on returning those savings back to the taxpayer," Edlund said.

School Board Treasurer Joseph Como applauded the county's initiative on the project: "The county is trying to keep the costs low by reusing facilities and that's helping keep the costs down. I believe it's being shared in a very fair manner."

School Board member Kurt O'Bryan agreed.

"The reality is this is just part of the plan to address our health care costs," O'Bryan said. "It's about reducing cost avoidance. I believe this plan will lead to cost avoidance."