City OK's joint employee health care clinic

The City of Sun Prairie is partnering with the Sun Prairie School District to set up an employee wellness clinic to curb rising health care costs.

The City of Sun Prairie is partnering with the Sun Prairie Area School District to set up an employee wellness clinic to curb rising health care costs.

The annual price tag isn’t cheap for the city — $84,697 — but city officials say a dedicated walk-in medical clinic could reduce costly ER visits and help people better manage chronic medical conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure.

The Sun Prairie City Council approved the plan Tuesday with the city cost-sharing 20/80 percent of the $423,482 plan with the school district. The Sun Prairie School Board was waiting for the city to act on the proposal before it takes its vote on Oct. 28.

Dean Health will run the clinic at its Tower Drive facility starting in July 2020 and then move to an on-site clinic at Cardinal Heights Upper Middle School in Fall 2022, according to the proposal.

Brenda Sukenik, city human resources director, said the city is trying to reduce health claims utilization and control rising costs. The city spends over $2.5 million each year on employee health insurance.

According to a benefit and risk consultant report, one employee wellness clinic success stories at Elmbrook School District in Brookfield, Wis., that saw cost-per-visit rates decrease by 37 percent over two years. Sheboygan County InHealth Clinic has also been able to keep costs in check when compared with other clinics.

A joint clinic between the City of Oshkosh, the Oshkosh School District, and Winnebago County, opened in 2015, hasn’t yet determined long-term savings. Sukenik said in a previous city meeting that the Waunakee School District implemented a wellness clinic with significant costs but hasn’t had the utilization it had hoped for.

Over the last five years, claims paid have exceeded premiums paid for the 500-plus employees covered on the City of Sun Prairie’s health insurance plan.

Data found that almost half of emergency room visits were non-emergency or could have been prevented or avoided.

Health plan consultants identified key areas for the city to reduce costs including managing care for employees who have diabetes, asthmas, high blood pressure through diet, exercise, stress management, and medication. Consultants reported that employees that don’t manage these conditions miss work three times more than employees who do. They also have six to eight times higher health care costs.

Sukenik said that Dean has also offered rate caps for 2022-23 with the clinic’s establishment.

It’s part of a strategy the city has used over the last six years to control rising employee health insurance. The city has increased co-pays for office visits, moved to a sole provider with High Deductible Health Plan and HRA/HSA contribution, reduced HRA/HSA contributions and changed insurers.

The employee wellness clinic would also do city pre-employment drug testing, occupational health testing, and handle workmen’s compensation cases.

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