When the school board and I first began working together in July of 2016, one of the first areas of concern that we identified was the cost of health insurance benefits and the subsequent negative impact on our budget.

This is a very typical issue that most organizations are facing in an era where healthcare costs show no signs of stabilization. And while our concerns over healthcare costs persist, we stand in a much better position now as a result of an overhaul of our health insurance benefit program.

Brown County Schools uses a self-funded plan model. Simply, this means that we pay for each out-of-pocket claim as the claims are incurred. The district maintains a fund specifically for health insurance use. All premiums collected on behalf of our employees are placed in that fund. The board also pays a percentage of the entire premium for all employee participants, which is also placed in this fund. Anthem is our provider, and when their payment is due, they are paid from this collection of premiums.

Before we made changes to our plan, our district had a massive deficit in the health insurance fund. We were in a situation where we had to make substantial lump sum payments to our “third-party administrator” (TPA) to catch up on bills that were due.

Unfortunately, the district was never able to match what was collected in premiums to the cost of the plan. We were in a perpetual mode of making payments outside of the health insurance fund to make sure bills were paid. This was a very concerning position for the district to be facing.

As a result, the district needed to apply substantial percentage increases in health insurance premiums to meet the demands of the plan. Unfortunately, we still could never get ahead even with more financial responsibility assumed by the employee and the school district. We knew we needed to make a change with our plan because there was no future outlook for success under the model that had been in place for many years.

In November of 2016, we began to interview health insurance benefit advisers to assist us with an analysis of our current plan. We selected an extraordinary group, R.E. Sutton & Associates, who led us through options to get us back on our feet. With their counsel, of which we continue to benefit, our district started to realize significant and swift impact. Our plan shifted to Anthem as the provider in May 2017, and since then, we have also moved from offering three traditional PPO plans to one traditional PPO plan and two high-deductible plans that are HSA-eligible.

We have “lived” our new plan for just over one year. I am thrilled to share that the results have been extraordinarily positive. We have moved from a situation of paying annual lump sum payments totaling over a half a million dollars to pay the bills to a situation where we have a reserve of well over the same. This translates into a million-dollar impact in just one year.

By building a healthy reserve, we are preparing for catastrophic years where the fund may be stressed by one or two major health events of plan participants. When the reserve is healthy, it can be used to respond to that need, as opposed to plan participants experiencing a significant increase in premiums to cover the cost. This is responsible health benefit management and the board and I are thrilled with the results.

One of the other reasons for the success of the health insurance program has been the introduction of our onsite health clinic, the Brown County Health and Wellness Center. The Brown County Health and Wellness Center just celebrated six months of being in business and the impact has already been extraordinary. Located in the Brown County Schools Eagle Park athletic complex, this clinic provides world-class direct primary care health care to all who are in our health benefit plan and to any community member interested in becoming a member.

The Brown County Health and Wellness Center has been flourishing since we opened our doors in the middle of January 2018 through a partnership with our clinic management team, Wellness for Life. Currently, we are open on Tuesdays and Thursdays and are working very hard to open an additional day.

We have witnessed lives being positively changed because of the incredibly talented and caring people who staff the facility. Success stories abound related to weight loss, smoking cessation, allergy management, and general health and wellness. Wellness for Life is genuinely redefining healthcare for our community and we are proud to be their partner in this effort.

Incredibly, the financial impact of the Brown County Health and Wellness Center actually translates into savings for our health benefit plan. While we are able to offer free visits, free labs and free medications, we are still realizing significant savings for our plan because the same expense in the marketplace would have been many times more significant. The cost benefit for what we are expending for the clinic is realized several times over as compared with similar visits, labs and medications administered in the marketplace.

Should you be interested in becoming a member of the Brown County Health and Wellness Center, we welcome your participation. For $65 a month, you can have access to unlimited visits, labs and an identified formulary of medications. If you are interested in learning more, please visit the Brown County Health and Wellness Center page on our website, browncountyschools.com/bchwc, or please call 844-333-0802.

We believe strongly that a healthy and well community positively impacts the health and wellness of the boys and girls we serve in preschool through Grade 12. We are committed to continuing to improve the health benefit programming of our school team in Brown County Schools as well as the broader school community of Brown County. Join us!

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