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July 24, 2021

6/11/2021 10:36:00 AM
Another side of the health insurance story

Dear Editor;
We couldn't help but notice the story on the front page of the May 6 edition of the Chronicle regarding a proposal to allow school districts to join the state's Employee Trust Funds plan in a school-district specific risk pool. The story indicates that school districts could save more than 20 percent of their health insurance costs and teachers could pay significantly less in premiums.
It sounds all well and good until you dive a little deeper. While it might save taxpayers and teachers a little money, the end result could be that those teachers wouldn't be able to see the local doctors in their communities that they have built a relationship with. For example, one insurance company we have experience with at Upland Hills Health has a broad enough base in Dane County to permit the company to price its insurance product in outlying areas just slightly above cost. The premiums look good to local units of government and their employees - but it's not always that simple. Three years ago, about 40 families employed by the Iowa County Highway Department could no longer see Upland Hills clinics because of the insurance plan they selected.
The insurance companies often don't tell the employers or subscribers that those electing this insurance can no longer receive care within Iowa County, other than emergency care. In this case, the insured employees also have no access to our Mt. Horeb clinic, even though it is in Dane County. This has resulted in angry patients who thought they could get services such as quick lab draws or mammograms at UHH. We have also seen patients who had to go to University Hospital for wound care but weren't allowed to come to UHH for ongoing treatment - and then got infections because they didn't have transportation to Madison.
We hope local school districts ask these types of questions before signing on the dotted line to save a few dollars on health insurance costs. If their employees have to go out of county for health care services, not only will it be inconvenient and time-consuming for patients to make those medical visits, but it will also take those health care dollars out of Iowa County.
We have seen the importance of our local hospital and clinics during the pandemic. Upland Hills Health wouldn't be as strong as it is today if it didn't have the support of the local communities it serves. We urge school board members to read the fine print before signing up for something that might not be as good as it sounds.

Jim Massey
Upland Hills Health
Board of Trustees

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