With insurance rates going up, Flagler County School Board agrees to provide employee health care center

The clinic will provide primary care, testing and labs and fill prescriptions.

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This story was corrected and updated on May 23.

Two Flagler County School Board members said they originally opposed an insurance committee recommendation to provide a dedicated health care center for district employees. They changed their minds, and the board voted 4-1 on May 21 to enter into negotiations with Everside Health to establish and run the new clinic, which will provide primary care, testing and labs and dispensing prescriptions — all for free.

The cost of providing the center seemed prohibitive, board members Colleen Conklin and Cheryl Massaro said, but the promise is that it will reduce employee insurance claims and thus keep the district's self-insurance plan’s reserve fund from dwindling and future health insurance premiums from spiraling out of control.

Board Chair Will Furry was the lone nay vote.

The district’s two unions entered into an MOU (memorandum of understanding) approving an insurance rate hike of about 7.5% across the board for the 2024-25 school year after three years of no increases. The School Board unanimously approved the MOU after voting in favor of the health care center.

Both unions solidly supported the MOU with 72% of the teachers’ union members voting in favor and 86% of the professional support union members voting to ratify.

Elisabeth Dias, president of the Flagler County Educators Association (the teachers’ union) spoke in public comment at the beginning of the meeting, telling the board that the union members acknowledged the necessity “to not bankrupt our self-insurance fund.” But they were concerned about the rising rates especially before entering into next year’s salary negotiations. For that reason, she encouraged the board to approve the health care center.

Conklin said she was going to vote against the health center, but she changed her mind because of overwhelming support by district employees.

But Conklin and other board members warned employees that the health care facility would only be beneficial if it is utilized in large numbers.

“If we do not use it, then it is for naught,” Conklin said. “The purpose of doing this is to get hold of some of the numbers and having the clinic should help drive down our costs. But it’s not going to help if we don’t use it.”

Massaro said she was originally a no vote but reconsidered.

“But then I started researching, and I talked to our experts and there is no other real option at this time to try to save money in health insurance," she said. ... When both the north of us and the south of us already have health clinics you can see how important it is to our employees and staff and they want this and they are willing to pay a little more to get it.”

The health care center will have a staff of three including a primary care provider and two medical assistants. Everside estimated startup costs alone to be $164,900 with the cost after the first year estimated at $824,982 and the cumulative cost after five years at $3,737,954. That’s if the district provides a space to house the facility. If it has to lease a space, the cost will be higher. But Everside estimates a cumulative health care savings of $7,811,536 after five years.

Board member Christy Chong, a family nurse practitioner, said she approached the question as a health care provider.

“I see the benefit," she said, “how we can help improve everyone's health as Dr. Conklin is saying, and prevent a lot of things that are far worse later on — to prevent ER visits, we could save a lot of money, help manage a lot of chronic conditions. So I'm excited to see how this works out, but we do need compliance. We need for people to use it.” 

Furry said he is concerned that if after the initial excitement consistency isn't maintained, people will choose private sector options.

"I don't want to discount employees' desire for this. I can see why you would want this,” he said. “My concerns have to do more with our current financial health and our reserves because our upfront cost had to be recouped over a period of time.”

For health insurance next year, the district will contribute $590.22 a month per employee. Employee contributions for standard employee-only insurance will be $95.42. But adding a spouse or children raises the premium dramatically and most employees find other options for their family members.

The standard premium for employee plus spouse will be $1,085.95 next year. Employee plus family will be $1,446.26. And in the premium tier, the employee plus family premium will be 2,004.74 a month.

“Obviously, family plans are breathtakingly high,” Conklin said. “It’s just ridiculous.”


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