Over the past several years, the Forest Lake Area School District Employee Benefits Committee has researched methods of reducing the district’s medical insurance claims. On Oct. 1, the School Board approved a plan to obtain requests for proposals to bring an on-site health clinic to the district.

The district expects to receive proposals from Fairview, NeoPath, QuadMed, Ottomeyer Clinic and Health Partners. The clinic will require between 1,000 and 1,500 square feet of space, or approximately the equivalent of one classroom. The exact space that the clinic will take over has yet to be determined. The clinic will be staffed by a nurse practitioner who will be able to dispense some medications, run some simple tests, and diagnose certain illnesses, such as the common cold or strep throat.

“I have personally toured on-site clinics in Robbinsdale and St. Francis, and I was joined by our Employee Benefits Committee on a tour of Brooklyn Center, and I believe that the program works very well,” District Business Director Larry Martini said. “The cost savings make the effort and expense worth the while.”

Helping keep health care costs down is important business for the Forest Lake district, as the health plan is self-funded. Self-funded health care is a self-insurance arrangement whereby an employer provides health benefits to employees with its own funds. This is different from fully insured plans where the employer contracts an insurance company to cover the employees and dependents. In self-funded health care, the employer assumes the direct risk for payment of the claims for benefits. According to data gathered from the three districts mentioned above, an eight-hour-a-day, three-day-a-week clinic would cost the district about $300,000 per year, but would save up to $600,000 on the medical plan.

“The clinic will only be available to employees who use the district medical plan,” Martini said. “As opposed to getting in your car and driving to your doctor and waiting and losing a half a day of work, with the on-site clinic, you can walk to it, get looked at, and be on your way back to your classroom in possibly as little at 15 or 30 minutes.”

The requests for proposal are due Oct. 29 and from there, the quotes will be seen by the Employee Benefits Committee on Nov. 11. The school finance and building and grounds committee will take a look at the proposals on Nov. 19 and the issue will be brought to the full board for approval in December.

With a bid, district officials would be forced to accept or deny just what they are given, but with a request for proposal, they can open up a line of communication and negotiate certain terms at any point in the process.

The Forest Lake Area School Board meets next in regular session on Nov. 5 at 7 p.m.

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