Steamboat School Board backs health care clinic | SteamboatToday.com

Steamboat School Board backs health care clinic

— Faced with the malady of rising health care costs, the Steamboat Springs School District is moving forward with a plan to soon add to their district a health clinic that would serve as an additional benefit for their employees and hopefully rein in the price of their health insurance.

Superintendent Brad Meeks told his School Board on Monday night that the district now is working to narrow down a list of vendors that would launch and manage the clinic, which he hopes to have up and running by July 1, from three to one.

"We are excited about this proposal," Meeks said.

He said the clinic should lower health insurance premium costs in the school district, which increased by 23 percent this school year, by reducing the number of insurance claims filed each year by district employees.

The school district is paying approximately $1.6 million for health insurance premiums this school year, said Dale Mellor, the district's finance director.

Mellor said the district, which has about 450 insured employees and dependents, pays as much as $493 in health care related costs each month per full-time employee.

Meeks said he plans to staff the clinic with a local general practitioner and stock it with 30 to 40 common prescriptions made available to employees at little or no cost. He added the plan is for the facility to operate 16 hours per week.

"The clinic is not intended to replace someone's primary health care physician," Meeks said. "It will be set up for more episodic events like colds, sore throats and other minor illnesses."

He said the district intends for the clinic to be available to insured district employees at no cost. Mellor said the district will absorb the cost of launching the clinic, and the district expects savings generated by the operation to cover and surpass its initial cost.

Administrators are eyeing at least 300-square-feet of space currently used as a custodial storage and office area in the George P. Sauer Human Services Center as a potential site for the clinic.

Board support

School Board members were supportive of the clinic Monday night, calling it an innovative and beneficial proposal.

"I remember waiting and waiting to see a doctor because of the rising costs" of health care, board member Rebecca Williams said as she recalled her time as a teacher at Steamboat Springs High School. "But if it's cheaper and it's more convenient to see a doctor (in the clinic), you're going to take care of (a medical problem) sooner."

Board President Brian Kelly agreed and said the clinic has the potential to increase the well-being of district employees.

"I think this is a great idea," he said. "I think preventative care can sometimes be underestimated, and if we can set up a local clinic that provides a lot of preventative care or catches illnesses and viruses sooner, it's going to save the district a lot of money."

Administrators said another purpose of the clinic will be to allow teachers to easily schedule a 20- to 30-minute appointment without having to sacrifice part of their workday to have a routine checkup.

"Year after year, our costs for health insurance have gone up, and it's cutting into the lifestyles of our employees and what we can do to help," Human Resources Director Judy Harris said. "We're really working on helping our employees develop a wellness plan to continue to stay healthy."

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com