Waukesha ready to act on shared city/county/school district health clinic

Published on: 4/28/2014

While the city of Waukesha has taken longer than its prospective partners in the venture, all signs now point to the city joining the school district and county in an intergovernmental shared health clinic.

The city took a step in that direction last week, when the city's Finance and Human Resources committees made unanimous recommendations to the Waukesha Common Council in favor of the proposal. The Common Council will take action on those recommendations on Tuesday, May 6.

The city would be the third and final entity to approve the intergovernmental agreement. The Waukesha School District and Waukesha County already approved the agreement at meetings in March.

City Administrator Ed Henschel said that because the city's decision would come later nearly two months later than its counterparts, the timeline for the clinic to open has now moved from Sept. 1 to Nov. 1.

On county grounds

Healthstat will operate the facility. The North Carolina-based health-care provider was selected by the city, county and school district earlier this year after a lengthy vetting process.

All city, county and school district employees, their families and retirees would be able to use the facility, which will be located in the county offices of the Division of Public Health, 615 W. Moreland Blvd.

Waukesha County Human Resources Manager Jim Richter said the county has budgeted $243,000 for building renovations, which could start very soon.

The clinic can be used for services such as primary care, wellness, pharmacy, occupational medicine and health assessments. However, emergency room services are not available at the clinic.

David Young, a representative from Healthstat who was at the April 22 joint committee meeting, said local medical staff will be hired to operate the facility.

Potential for savings

According to estimates provided by Healthstat, the on-site clinic could save a combined total of close to $8 million for the three entities over the five-year agreement.

The county is expected to save about $3 million, the school district $3.4 million and the city $1.2 million. The city would invest $190,000 the first year and $7,800 in the second, but Henschel said the city would begin realizing $210,000 savings in the third year, $501,000 in the fourth year and another $714,000 in the fifth. Henschel said the savings are based on 50 percent participation over the five years.

"I'm hoping it will be more than that," Henschel said. "That's a conservative estimate."

Using the clinic isn't a requirement but the more people who use the facility the more the entities will see the savings, Henschel said.

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.

Significantly lower co-pays is one cost-saving measure employees will see if they use the clinic, which will be set up so the employees of the three entities can use their insurance there. According to Healthstat, the clinic would cost the employer $45 and the employee $5, compared to a community clinic health plan cost of $112 and an employee co-pay of $28.

Alderman Terry Thieme, who said his employer, Kohl's, utilizes an on-site health clinic for its employees, also believes public workers will notice the lower costs.

"There definitely is a savings to the employee," Thieme said. "It's been very successful at Kohl's. I think it will be very user-friendly to the employees."

And the public benefit isn't nothing to sneeze at either, he added.

"We're always trying to find ways to save taxpayer dollars," Thieme said.

ProHealth re-examination

The original timeline called for the city to vote on the intergovernmental agreement in March, but that action was postponed after some city officials thought a proposal by locally based ProHealth Care should be considered an as alternative to Healthstat.

Former Mayor Jeff Scrima had brought in representatives from ProHealth Care to an earlier meeting a few weeks earlier saying why a shared health clinic with Healthstat wasn't the best option. Scrima would later say ProHealth Care would match or exceed the savings of Healthstat in an alternative proposal.

Henschel, however, said at last week's joint committee meeting a ProHealth Care clinic would be two to 2.5 times the cost of the Healthstat clinic, and its proposal ranked last when a committee reviewed 12 providers. He added that he has not heard from anyone at ProHealth Care since the March 4 Common Council meeting.

Alderwoman Kathleen Cummings, who had previously made a referral for Henschel to review an alternative proposal from ProHealth Care, was upset that her request was not heard. Cummings is also a county board supervisor and one of four who voted against the shared health clinic at the county board meeting in March.

"I don't think we've done our due diligence," Cummings said. "I find that disappointing."

Henschel said getting an alternative proposal after the fact is "not how the public processes are conducted."

"This was diligently reviewed," said an adamant Henschel. "We've given you the best proposal with the greatest cost savings to the city."