County seeks clinic agreement with Community Hospital

Mesa County commissioners voted unanimously Monday to direct county staff to begin contract negotiations with Community Hospital to have the hospital take over county employee health clinic duties starting Jan. 1.

Once negotiated, the contract would be presented to commissioners at another hearing for final approval.

The clinic opened in November 2010 under the management of Indiana-based Novia CareClinics. The clinic, at 1060 Orchard Ave., is open to anyone on the county’s insurance plan and provides basic health care, lab tests and prescription medications.

The county opened the clinic in the hopes of decreasing costs under the county-run medical insurance plan. The idea was to decrease the number of high-cost medical claims in the county plan by encouraging employees to seek basic care at the clinic before a simple health issue escalated into more serious — and expensive — medical conditions. An increase in high-cost claims this year spurred commissioners to re-examine the clinic contract.

Four companies bid for a contract to provide clinic services, including Novia and local medical providers Community Hospital and Primary Care Partners. Community Hospital had the lowest-cost bid of the four.

The hospital proposed a model similar to the one it offers District 51 schools, with insured people allowed to visit any one of a dozen doctors at Grand Valley Primary Care for services, with access to after-hours services when primary care is closed. The models proposed by Community and Primary Care Partners would allow the county to close their existing clinic and use the providers’ existing medical offices.

Commissioner Steve Acquafresca said he was happy with the bids from Community and Primary Care Partners because “we’re keeping our health care business here” instead of “sending hundreds of thousands of dollars to some far-off place.”

Commissioner Rose Pugliese said she has received several comments from people concerned that the county’s health care costs may increase because the contract is to include a provision that makes Community Hospital an exclusive provider for people insured by the county. If a patient needed a service that Community does not provide or if they wanted to go a different hospital, they could go elsewhere, they told the commissioner.

But concerned citizens have told Pugliese they worry other providers will not offer a discount on services like the one provided by Community, which would drive up the cost of care, she said.

Mesa County Assistant Human Resources Director Sheryl Coffey said the county can request discounts through a third-party administrator during contract negotiations if someone needs a procedure somewhere other than the hospital.


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