Waukesha's shared health clinic approved by county

Published on: 4/1/2014

Two down, one to go.

Thirteen days after the Waukesha School District approved an intergovernmental agreement for a shared medical clinic with the city and county, the Waukesha County Board joined them in going ahead with the proposal.

After a lengthy discussion, the board voted 19-4 last week in favor of the shared clinic.

Now, all that's left is for the city to vote on the agreement.

Many after the meeting said the results of this week's mayoral election could be a deciding factor in how the city moves forward with the on-site clinic. Shawn Reilly, who challenged Mayor Jeff Scrima in the general election Tuesday, supports the clinic.

The on-site health clinic, which would be available to employees of the three entities and their families, 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 will be set up so that the employees of all three entities may use their insurance at the clinic, said Norm Cummings, Waukesha County's director of administration. However, employees still have the option to receive health services elsewhere or may choose when they want to use the clinic. An employee's patient record at the clinic can be forwarded to his or her primary doctor.

According to North Carolina-based Healthstat, the health-care provider selected from bids, the clinic, if approved, could open in September.

Praising process

The clinic would be on the Waukesha County Courthouse campus in the offices of the county Division Of Public Health at 615 W. Moreland Blvd. The facility was vacated when the Public Health Division was relocated to the new Health and Human Services building that opened last fall.

The process to have a shared medical clinic began in October 2012, when the three entities partnered to conduct a feasibility study. Twelve health-care providers submitted requests for proposals before Healthstat was selected by the three governmental entities earlier this year.

"I think this process has been excellent," said County Supervisor Larry Nelson, who is also a former Waukesha mayor.

This kind of intergovernmental agreement where the county, its largest city and the largest school district "can work together for the good of the taxpayer" will be a "role model" for others to follow, he added.

Nelson also predicted the city would join the county and school district in the "not-so-distant" future.

Questions on vendor

A few County Board members questioned how an out-of-state vendor was chosen, as well as what would happen if the anticipated savings aren't met.

But other members said local providers were part of the bidding process, including ProHealth Care, and they came up short. Norm Cummings said that five area providers were vetted during the RFP process.

"I don't believe government should get involved in the health-care business," said Supervisor Kathleen Cummings, who, along with Supervisors Janel Brandtjen, Pauline Jaske and Jennifer Grant, voted against the shared clinic.

Brandtjen called it a "slap in the face" to its community partners for not selecting a local provider.

Fair and financially wise

However, Supervisor Patricia Haukohl said it would be a "slap in the face and an insult" to the vendor chosen if the county and the other entities begins looking at other proposals.

"We scrutinized these proposals to make sure they were done fairly," Haukohl said.

An evaluation committee of representatives from the county (Employee Benefits Administrator Peter Hans, Waukesha County Purchasing Division Manager Laura Stauffer and Grant), city (HR Manager Donna Whalen) and the school district (Christine Hedstrom, assistant superintendent for Human Resources and Labor Relations) selected the vendor based on scoring criteria.

Norm Cummings said the ProHealth Care proposal had a negative return on investment.

Supervisor Peter Wolff added that Healthstat could well end up hiring local doctors, thus creating jobs.

"We shouldn't oppose saving taxpayers $3 million," Wolff said. "Because it benefits our employees is a bonus. This is a very innovative way and a wonderful opportunity that we need to take advantage of. Unfortunately it didn't go to a local contractor. Healthstat came up with the best bid. This is providing a wonderful service for our employees."

City's discussion

The city was originally scheduled to vote on the intergovernmental agreement last week, but the process was delayed after ProHealth Care asked the city to look at an alternative proposal.

Last month, Scrima brought in representatives from ProHealth Care to a Common Council meeting, where they stated why a shared health clinic, specifically using Healthstat, isn't the best option and now wants to submit an alternative proposal that wasn't in the solicited proposals.

City Administrator Ed Henschel, who was asked to get another proposal, said doing so "violates his sense of ethics."

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

"To whine and cry after the fact," Supervisor Walter Kolb said, "that's not playing by the rules."

If the city denies the intergovernmental agreement, a new agreement would have to be brought forward for the school district and County Board.