Funding for health care panel OK’d

  • By Kelly Sullivan
  • Wednesday, February 4, 2015 11:03pm
  • News

The Kenai Peninsula community may have a chance to make reforms in local health care.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly appropriated $200,000 for evaluating potential ways to reduce health care costs on the Kenai Peninsula at its Tuesday meeting.

The ordinance was introduced by Borough Mayor Mike Navarre.

“What I want is to get a hold over ever increasing health care costs on the Kenai Peninsula,” Navarre said. “It will be controversial, but I believe that ought not to dissuade us from putting in an effort. This is important.”

Navarre had requested the allocation three years ago, and at the beginning of the 2015 fiscal year, but allowed it to lapse back into the borough’s General Fund. He wanted to bring it before the assembly so the new members could hear his plan for utilizing the funds.

The plan would be carried out through a task force to engage the community to building a consensus vision on what health care could look like, Navarre said. As opportunities to transition into that come about, more concrete plans would be developed.

The first step would likely be hiring a consultant or consultant company that would be in charge of forming the task force, Navarre said.

“I can’t also say if it will be successful or not, because effort towards reform in this country and even in this state is met with a lot of opposition,” Navarre said.

Navarre suggested two possibilities for reform in the longterm: combining the South Peninsula Hospital Service Area and the Central Peninsula Hospital Service Area or appointing health care powers on a borough-wide level.

Navarre said between the borough and school district, the cost of providing employees health care cost nearly $28 million last year.

“If we are able to just get one percent savings in our employee costs, it would be $284,000,” Navarre said. “That is clearly a good return on that investment.”

Assembly member Wayne Ogle said while he believes Navarre’s ordinance supports a “worthy goal,” he wouldn’t support it. He said he wished a developed plan had been submitted to the assembly to review before they made a decision.

“Right now this is an amorphous study with good intentions and hopeful results,” Ogle said. “The mayor says there is no guarantee of success, I respect his candidness on that, and there may not be.”

With the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District facing a 13 percent increase to health care budget this year, it is essential the borough “try to do something to reduce the costs of health care,” said assembly member Blaine Gilman.

“$200,000 is a lot of money,” Assembly member Mako Haggerty said. “But compared to the costs of health care these days it’s just a drop in the bucket.”

Assembly member Kelly Wolf said he had concerns about the plan, and originally was unsure if he could support the allocation. He said he was persuaded following the mayor’s comments.

Wolf said he only asks that the mayor keep the assembly informed on the progress of the process, and include them when he can.

 

Reach Kelly Sullivan at kelly.sullivan@peninsulclarion.com.

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