Monument Health ends District 51 negotiations

Nearly a month after asking the District 51 Board of Education for consideration as an additional employee health insurance option, Monument Health abruptly ended negotiations with district staff earlier this month, citing “adversarial” interactions between the two organizations.

St. Mary’s Medical Center President Brian Davidson and Monument Health CEO Stephanie Motter told school board members in August that offering Monument Health as an additional health insurance option would save the district upward of $400,000 per year.

Board members asked district staff, including Risk Manager Sheila Naski, to run previous health claims through the Monument Health model to see if adding an additional option would save money.

That process ended on Sept. 15, when Motter sent a frustrated letter to Naski withdrawing the Grand Junction-based health network from consideration.

“Our goal over the past 16 months has been to ... partner with you and help you offer District 51 employees a competitive choice for high quality health care at a reduced cost,” Motter said in the letter. “The recent interactions and organizational dynamics that we have experienced during the last several weeks, as we have attempted to support the repricing exercise as directed by the District 51 Board of Education, have caused us great concerns. We believe that the tight timeline and stress induced upon the benefits consultants have resulted in unproductive and unnecessarily adversarial encounters between our organizations,” Motter said.

School District 51 is self-
insured and currently offers two health insurance options — a high-deductible plan through Community Hospital and a preferred provider plan through Rocky Mountain Health Plans. The majority of employees are insured through the high-deductible plan.

Naski said the school district approached Monument Health to take over the preferred provider plan, and the organization instead asked to be considered as another high-deductible insurance option.

“Monument Health looked at this as a way of competing with Community Hospital and they wanted equal footing, and we don’t care about competition, we just want to provide the best health care plan that we can that’s affordable,” Naski said. “You combine that with their lack of experience in the self-insurance world and things just kind of broke down. It was almost like a car salesman trying to sell you a van, but all you want is a station wagon. The plan they were offering was the same as the Community one, but what we wanted was something completely different.”

Monument Health officials don’t want to displace any current health offerings, Davidson said, but rather offer a way for the district to save money.

“The repricing exercise was a complete circus, and the limited data we did get out of it showed that we would have saved the district a significant amount of money, more than enough to pay for at least a half-dozen teachers,” Davidson said. “I think it came to the point where even if they were going to save a million dollars it was too much work to offer up a choice for people.”

Naski said the process seemed to be more about Monument Health, and by extension St. Mary’s Medical Center, competing with Community Hospital.

“It was getting into, is this about us and our needs or is this about competition with another hospital?” Naski said. “The bottom line is we’re interested in providing the best health care we can afford for our employees. We don’t want to get into what’s fair or not fair for another hospital, and that’s where things kind of broke down.”

Naski said a large portion of district employees go to St. Mary’s Medical Center regardless of their insurance plan for services that Community doesn’t provide.

Monument Health’s board of directors was concerned about “conflicted politics” in the process, Davidson said, including with a third-party consultant who works with both District 51 and Community Hospital on their health insurance plans.

“It’s not going to happen for 2018, but I have significant faith in the new superintendent (Ken Haptonstall),” Davidson said. “We’ll keep trying. ... We will continue to communicate with him and we’ll have a good chance at showing them some cost savings.”


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