Shared health clinic in Waukesha completes 'monumental' deal

Published on: 5/12/2014

Norm Cummings didn't downplay the significance of the now-approved shared medical clinic between three governmental entities.

"This is pretty monumental," said Cummings, Waukesha County's director of administration and one of the leaders of the project, of the comprehensive intergovernmental agreement for the clinic, located at 615 W. Moreland Blvd. on the Waukesha County Courthouse grounds.

Benefit-enrolled employees and retirees of the city of Waukesha, the Waukesha School District and Waukesha County, along with their families, will be eligible to use the clinic.

After the Waukesha School Board and Waukesha County Board approved of the agreement two months ago, the city followed suit when it gave the clinic the go-ahead at its Common Council meeting May 6.

Key collaboration

While it took the city longer than expected to approve of the clinic, Cummings said "the long process was definitely worth it."

Healthstat, based in North Carolina, is the health-care provider selected to operate the facility. Healthstat operates more than 350 clinics across the nation in the public sector.

But Cummings said the on-site clinic in Waukesha will stand apart from any other Healthstat clinic.

"This is the first time for Healthstat that multiple governments have collaborated on a clinic," Cummings said. "It is difficult to coordinate and requires a lot of trust for governments to have in each other."

The process to have a shared health clinic where employees can go for a variety of services — including lab work and biometric screenings, wellness counseling, blood-pressure checks, routine immunizations, urgent care needs, preventative exams as well as pharmacy needs — was started in late 2012 when a consultant was chosen.

Although Cummings said the county kick-started the idea, the school district and city soon became involved after identifying the amount of savings that could be had if the three came together.

"This collaboration is dynamite when we talk about savings," Cummings said.

Significant savings

The initial analysis for the county showed having a health clinic by itself would have only resulted in $700,000 in savings over the five-year term of the agreement. But by adding the school district and city to the mix, the county will save an estimated $3 million.

Each entity will have to put significant dollars in investing in the clinic, but by the end of the five-year agreement, the overall savings for all three government entities is estimated to be close to $8 million — about $1.2 million for the city and $3.4 million for the school district, assuming there is at least 50 percent participation among employees and the families.

Employees aren't required to use the facility but the more who use the facility the greater the savings become for the entities. Employees' insurance providers will be accepted at the clinic.

The cost of co-pays will be dramatically less at the Healthstat clinic than community clinics, City Administrator Ed Henschel said.

"The clinic is a win-win for both the city and employees," Henschel said. "It's another tool in our toolbox in trying to provide good health care while keeping our costs down."

Backers and doubters

Waukesha Alderman Vance Skinner, one of 10 aldermen who voted for the intergovernmental agreement, said the savings "are too big to ignore."

However, not all aldermen see this as a clear victory.

"To me, it doesn't fit," said Alderman Eric Payne, who was joined by Aldermen Cory Payne and Adam Jankowski and Alderwoman Kathleen Cummings in voting against the agreement. "I don't know that the numbers are going to match up. I don't know if we've explored other options."

However, Henschel, along with Aldermen Terry Thieme, Joe Pieper and Andy Reiland stressed this process has been thoroughly vetted.

A committee that included representatives from all three entities evaluated the 12 health providers that submitted bids before Healthstat was chosen earlier this year.

"The failure would be to not pass it," Reiland said.

Upgrading building

Norm Cummings, who is not related to Kathleen Cummings, said the county is currently accepting bids for the company that will do the renovations inside the building, previously used as the offices of the county division of public health.

The county has budgeted $243,000 for the improvements, which Norm Cummings called "modest." He also said he's very confident that the clinic, which will hire its staff locally, will meet its goal of opening by Nov. 1.

"It's not transforming the building," Cummings said. "We're just making it more useful and specialized for the clinic."