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Wichita school district might pursue savings via health clinic for employees

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Monday, Sep. 9, 2013, at 10:23 p.m.
  • Updated Tuesday, Sep. 10, 2013, at 6:14 a.m.

In just a few months, the Wichita school district could launch an optional health care clinic for employees and start saving significantly on health care costs, a consultant told school board members Monday.

Such clinics elsewhere, usually established by large companies or government agencies, are “often cited as the No. 1 employee health benefit in a very short amount of time,” said Aaron Wells, an employee benefits consultant with Willis of Greater Kansas Inc.

“Companies like them … and employees like them.”

Kelly Rundell, director of employee benefits and insurance for Wichita schools, said a committee of district employees has voiced preliminary support for such a venture. It would be an option, not a requirement, for employees and their families, she said.

The clinic likely would be run by an outside vendor and offer services such as pre-employment physicals, chronic disease management, worker’s compensation assessments, vaccinations and acute care for common illnesses. It would be available to active employees, their spouses and children over 2, Wells said.

The district could have a clinic up and running as early as February, he told board members. Officials would have to buy or lease a space, he said, because most district properties – including vacant school buildings – likely would cost too much to retrofit for medical services.

Wells said a school district in Independence, Mo., opened a clinic about a year ago and reported “immediate savings” in health care costs, particularly in workers’ compensation claims. Santa Barbara County, Calif., which operates two clinics nearly 100 miles apart for employees, estimated about $2 million in savings in four years, he said.

“I like the concept. I think it’s positive,” board member Lynn Rogers said Monday. “We’ve got to constantly be looking at options in our health care. … I’d like to see what we can do to move forward.”

Superintendent John Allison said his staff has talked with real estate brokers about potential sites.

“If the board is supportive of moving forward, we need to further do some work and isolate our vendor, or a couple, so we can start really talking dollars,” he said.

Also on Monday, the school board unanimously approved revisions to a proposed policy on reporting suspected child abuse or neglect.

The revised policy, which comes more than a year after a Wichita kindergarten teacher lost her job after allegedly failing to report suspected abuse quickly enough, is intended to clarify procedures in language that reflects current state law.

Kansas law requires teachers, doctors, counselors and other mandatory reporters to inform either local law enforcement or the Kansas Protection Reporting Center if they suspect a child has been abused.

Walt Chappell, a former State Board of Education member, addressed the school board Monday and urged it to table the policy, saying it was ambiguous.

“This policy has a lot of problems,” Chappell said. “It has unintended consequences for teachers, for students and parents, and I know that’s not what you want.”

He pointed to a portion of the policy that directs teachers to report any suspected abuse by phone or via the KPRC website, but notes that the confidential report shouldn’t be duplicated and that “no copies are to be kept in the building.”

“So if a teacher makes a report, they have no verification they’ve actually done so,” Chappell said. “If the district comes back and says … ‘Why didn’t you report it?’ and the teacher says, ‘I did,’ they have no leg to stand on.”

Reach Suzanne Perez Tobias at 316-268-6567 or stobias@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @suzannetobias.

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