Written by: Nathaniel Shuda, Oshkosh Northwestern Media
Some public workers could have a new, easy-to-access medical provider, courtesy of their employers as soon as next year.
The Oshkosh Area School District, city of Oshkosh and Winnebago County are nearing completion of plans for a near-site employee health clinic. Leaders said the move is designed to save both employees and taxpayers money as they start focusing on preventing chronic conditions, such as Type II diabetes, hypertension and obesity.
“Health care, in general, historically, has been reactive,” said Al Jaeger, senior vice president and senior benefits consultant for Associated Financial Group, which has been assisting the entities with the project. “It’s more or less set up at the bottom of the cliff and taken care of individuals once they’ve fallen off the cliff. Well, the clinic model is set up at the top of the cliff to prevent people from falling off.”
The clinic would focus on acute and treatment-based care, wellness preventative care, disease management coordination, employee education and lifestyle coaching, Jaeger said.
Although the school district has enough employees to warrant its own clinic, business director Sue Schnorr said getting the city and the county on board would help offset some of the start-up costs. It also would allow the clinic to be more flexible, offer more services and have longer hours of operation, much like a similar employee health clinic program in Sheboygan County.
After interviewing four viable finalists to administer the proposed Oshkosh clinic earlier this year, work group leaders toured existing clinics and requested proposals from Interra, which administers the Sheboygan clinic; ThedaCare; and Helathstat, which operates an employee clinic in West Bend.
Next steps include gaining approval from each of the three governing bodies — the school board, the Winnebago County Board and the Oshkosh Common Council — developing an inter-agency agreement, signing a contract with Interra, deciding on a clinic site, which likely would undergo renovations, and organizing employee informational meetings before opening the clinic’s doors on Jan. 2.
The Oshkosh clinic would cost the school district nearly $640,900 in its first year, or about 50 percent of the total $1.3 million associated with the project, with a $500,000 grant from its insurance provider, the Wisconsin Counties Association’s Group Health Trust, Schnorr said. The county and the city would pay 30 percent and 20 percent, respectively.
County leaders still are discussing how they would fund their portion of the program because the county has a different insurance provider, said Mike Collard, the county’s human resources director.
“If we could work that out so there’s a satisfactory funding source, we could go ahead,” Collard said. “I think it’s fair to say that I’m optimistic.”
When discussed with members of the county’s employee wellness committee, the concept garnered positive feedback, said Collard, who helped launch the Sheboygan County clinic a few years ago.
“It’s not going to be for everyone — we’re not going to try to make it for everyone — but I think it’s going to be an attractive option for many of our employees,” he said. “It’s much more targeted at individual wellness, and hopefully, it’s a relatively more-convenient option.”
City leaders are hopeful they will be able to launch the program along with the school district in time for a Jan. 2 opening and now are in the process of floating the idea of a clinic to city employee groups, which need to support the concept in order for it to be successful, Assistant City Manager John Fitzpatrick said.
“We’re still working through that phase; we want to make sure our employees are comfortable with it,” Fitzpatrick said. “Once they have a comfort level, I think we’re going to be better prepared.”