BRADENTON - The potential cost-saving benefits of a possible contract between the Manatee School District and a healthcare services company were discussed at Tuesday's school board workshop, shortly before a presentation that advised the district's health care fund reserve's deficit increased in 2013.
Those claimed financial savings -- projected by Dallas-based Compass Professional Health Services for the 2014-15 school year to be at $1.8 million -- were met with varied comments from board members. Board Chair Julie Aranibar lauded the potential savings, stressing the $48 million cost of health care from this year's $350 million budget. "This one benefit is costing more and more every year; it's very important for the public to understand what that amount of money is," she said.
Superintendent Rick Mills said that by working with the firm, the district could "keep its costs down while providing the same quality of service" to help re-invest in classrooms.
Board members Bob Gause and Dave Miner, while not declaring opposition, expressed skepticism of the savings claimed. Gause said that he would want to see a savings verification plan in place if the board does move to approve a contract with the company.
David Toomey, President of CPHS, told the board that at a cost of $414,000 per year, the company would provide services such as helping employees find minimally-expensive, needed medical work and procedures in their health care network, and give incentives for employees to seek out preventative care.
Toomey also said the company would create value by "helping employees navigate the complex health care system," via trained concierge professionals who would answer a wide range of administrative questions about medical services.
Feelings on the news of the reserve's $900,000 deficit were more unified, as board members expressed urgency on ensuring that the expanded negative balance is quickly turned around, as well as concern that it could mean more penalties from the state, which recently fined the board $7 million for past financial errors and malfeasance. (Cam Potter, Assistant Vice President of district healthcare consultant Aon, who gave the presentation on the district's state of healthcare, advised the board that the state would not give penalties for the reserve deficit.)
Despite also hearing that the district's health care fund balance had a surplus at the end of 2013 and that the reserve is projected to improve significantly this year, board member Gause said, "If this board doesn't take action to maintain healthcare premiums, that's going to be hugely unpopular and equally unneccesary."
Board member Karen Carpenter was absent from Tuesday's workshop.