published Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

Cooperation trumps $550,000 for county wellness center

The city’s health center was completed late last year.
The city’s health center was completed late last year.

Last week, the Hamilton County Commission approved a resolution to open a $550,000 health clinic for county employees. When concern was expressed that such a health clinic would duplicate services already being provided by the city, Hamilton County Human Resources Director Leslie Longshore explained that county and city governments are two separate entities with separate health benefits, separate health insurance and different goals. The county and the city are "separate in what they do," County Mayor Jim Coppinger agreed.

But are the county and city so different that providing basic health clinic services to the two groups of local government employees necessitates the county renovating and funding a half-million dollar service so that each gets it own "separate" clinic? While the two governments remain distinct, sharing an employee health facility to save taxpayers half a million dollars doesn't seem like much of a problem: especially when the purposes of the clinic and the reasons for building the proposed facility are considered.

One of the primary benefits of the new clinic, proponents argued at the County Commission meeting on the first of this month, is its convenient location and availability to county employees. The now-approved clinic would be built in addition to the county's already-existing pharmacy in the McDaniel Building, which houses the county's accounting, finance, and purchasing divisions. The McDaniel Building, on North Highland Park Avenue, is less than two miles from the already-functioning, $4.1 million city health and wellness facility that provides the same type of care programs the county's new clinic will -- plus many more. The 20,000-square-foot city health and wellness facility opened in February, and averages 130-140 daily visitors. "We have the space available to offer more," Jenny Lowry, the city's wellness and safety manager told the Times Free Press in June.

Questioning from commissioners during the proposal for the clinic probed incentives for employees to actually use the clinic. Other than the convenience of the location, the chiefly mentioned incentive is the low or no co-pay for employees to use the facility. Hamilton County employees already are on health insurance benefits that allow them to choose whatever healthcare facilities best meet their needs. Advocates for the new clinic stated that employees would still be able to continue care with their current doctors: the new clinic would just offer more help, and assist in education about wellness and illness prevention.

Did the county and the city even sit down and discuss the county employees using the brand new city facility? "No," Mayor Coppinger stated. "There was no discussion."

The real motivation behind this new and unnecessary spending spree is apparently the county's benefits competition with the city, and the unwillingness of both entities to cooperate because they dread the thought of consolidated, efficient government.

Cooperation doesn't require blurring lines of authority, though. And it would save taxpayers half a million dollars.

Vivian Hughbanks is a Times Free Press editorial intern and a student of politics and journalism at Hillsdale College in Michigan.

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nucanuck said...

This whole editorial begs the question: Why do the tens of millions of government employees at every level not fall under the same health care system as private sector America?

Why should every public employee have health coverage when 40 million of their fellow Americans do not? Are they somehow more deserving? Of course not!

We badly need a single health care system that provides the same basic health care to every resident American and disassociated with places of employment. As it is now, Congress has the best health care plan, followed by big corporation employees and government workers. The other insured get varying insurance depending on the luck of the draw. Lose your job and you will soon find yourself among the bottom dwellers who have no coverage and are forced to pay the highest prices of all.

That hardly sounds like a system for a leading country, and that begs the question of whether or not we are still a leading country?

August 17, 2013 at 1:19 a.m.
fairmon said...

Both have pharmacies providing the same services and now they will both have health facilities with an under used gym. City and county residents need to be more aware of the liberal personnel practices, compensation and benefits they are paying for. The planned facility is just one example of the duplication and redundancy throughout the two entities. Commissioners and council members in office for the right reason should be promoting the funding for an unbiased third party study of the savings in combining the two governments and propose a fair tax system that retains the benefit of living outside the present city limits.

The reality is that those in office like the power, prestige and influence it gives them and they will not propose anything that might upset that. There is something wrong with a system that allows providing of pay and benefits above those in the private sector for like or similar work. The compensation practices plus the inefficiency and unnecessary positions are a significant cost to taxpayers that keeps increasing and will continue until more people become aware of and pay attention to what their elected officials are doing....that day is not likely to ever come and those in charge know that.

August 19, 2013 at 6:09 a.m.
holdout said...

So government employees should receive no health care? Calling the gym underused is a stretch anyway. The city put their system in place several years ago and it saved a lot of money for taxpayers compared to what was in place. It is hardly lavish and the city system would be swamped by the addition of county employees. How can you have duplication through two entities anyway. Two being the operative word there. Duplication would be two plans across one entity. Try getting a company you are not employed by to provide your insurance because they already do that for their employees.

September 8, 2013 at 12:11 p.m.
fairmon said...

holdout says...

Try getting a company you are not employed by to provide your insurance because they already do that for their employees.

There are many examples of multiple employers going together to obtain group rates for healthcare coverage for their employees. Both city and county employees enjoy better healthcare coverage than the private sector.

holdout ask...

How can you have duplication through two entities

The best way would be to have only one where there is two.

September 9, 2013 at 12:16 a.m.
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