South Bend schools may add on-site health clinic for employees
SOUTH BEND - In as few as three months, South Bend schools may have an on-site health clinic where employees could receive primary care services for free.It's part of a new strategy by the school corporation for providing health care, which also includes a new insurance carrier.
The clinic would likely be located within space the corporation already owns.The school board voted on the matter at a special meeting Thursday evening.
It's unknown at this point who would operate the clinic, said Curt Novotny, human resources director, but the corporation will review proposals from potential providers soon.
The clinic would provide primary care services, including physical exams and immunizations, as well as generic prescriptions, for free to covered employees and their covered dependents.
It's also possible it could be opened to those who work in the district but don't take part in the corporation's health insurance plan, Novotny said, but they'd have to pay an annual fee.
In fact, the facility eventually could even open to the general public, he told the school board.The idea is all part of an overhaul in the way the school corporation handles health insurance for its employees. It's necessary, Novotny explained, for several reasons.
A new law has recently set a limit on how much schools can contribute to employees' insurance plans. Had the district stayed with its current provider, premiums would have nearly doubled in some cases.
Additionally, last year, the corporation experienced an unprecedented large number of medical claims. That, Novotny said, drives up premiums.
An on-site clinic could help cut down on the number of expensive emergency room visits.
Its providers would also focus on promoting wellness, Novotny said, which has the added long-term benefit of bringing down the cost of medical claims.
At Thursday's meeting, the board heard emotional testimony from two employees who said they couldn't afford an increase in insurance costs.
Though out-of-pocket expenses will likely rise for all, because of increased deductibles and co-payments, Novotny said, premiums will actually go down for some under the new plan. Board members expressed dismay over the general issue of increased costs for employees.
“It's not something any of us here wants to do,” said Roger Parent, board president.On the other side of the county, School City of Mishawaka has had a near-site health clinic for employees for about five years.
On Friday, Gregg Hixenbaugh, executive director for human resources & relations and legal counsel for the district, said it's been well received and has paid dividends in cost savings and increased wellness.
Although it was initially managed by another agency, it's now run by Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center.
Mishawaka's clinic is only open to covered employees and dependents at this time, but, Hixenbaugh said, the school district has had preliminary discussions about opening it up to city of Mishawaka employees, too.“It's becoming a trend among governmental agencies,” Hixenbaugh said of on-site health clinics.
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