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Baraboo School Board member Nancy Thome, center, speaks during a discussion on health insurance providers at a board meeting Monday.

Employees at Baraboo schools will see health insurance costs go down, but may need to change doctors when a new health insurance provider starts with the district this summer.

By a unanimous roll-call vote Monday, the school board approved a three-year contract with Quartz, dropping its current provider Dean as of July 1. Board members Tim Heilman and Gary Cummings recused themselves from the vote because they use district insurance, according to board President Kevin Vodak.

Members said the decision to change was difficult and not about the quality of care offered by either provider. Quartz’s plan will cost the district roughly 12.4 percent less in 2020 than Dean’s, bringing an estimated savings of at least $1.31 million over the three years of the contract.

“To me, it’s impossible to be able to walk away and leave that kind of savings on the table no matter what my personal feelings might be about wanting to be supportive of the community,” Vodak said.

Dean Health Plan is affiliated with SSM Health, which allowed district staff to receive in-network services at the SSM St. Clare Hospital in Baraboo. By switching to Quartz, they’ll now likely have to travel outside of Baraboo for most health care. Dan Lewison, co-owner of Don-Rick Insurance, said employees will be able to see their Baraboo clinic doctor as an in-network benefit under certain conditions, but it won’t be convenient for most — and they’ll have to go elsewhere for specialists.

“In essence, what we’ll be advising your employees if the board decides to switch is that really, you probably should switch doctors unless you’re just somebody that doesn’t ever go,” Lewison said.

Baraboo School District business manager Yvette Updike said every employee, whether single or on a family plan, will pay less under Quartz than they currently pay for their district health insurance.

The Quartz plan includes use of The Difference Card, which works like a credit card to offset copays and deductibles, according to its website. Updike said the district thought Quartz’s original high-deductible plan proposal would be too expensive for employees, so it engaged with The Difference Card. That combines with the plan to lower the employee’s cost for certain services, including primary care and emergency room visits and overall deductible.

For example, instead of paying the $500 Quartz copay for an emergency room visit, the employee pays $200 and the district — through The Difference Card — picks up the $300 difference. It also brings deductibles to $500 for singles and $1,000 for families, significantly lower than the current Dean plan of $1,500 for singles and $3,000 for families.

Despite the district paying a larger portion of the Quartz plan than it does currently with Dean, Quartz still is cheaper overall for the district, Updike said. She presented the board with total cost estimates for each plan, noting there are hypotheticals involved that could change: Dean would stay the same at $5.07 million in 2020, while Quartz likely would cost between $4.23 million and $4.45 million. Even with potential rises in cost with Quartz for 2021 and 2022, the district stands to save for at least three years.

Board member Nancy Thome said she solicited feedback from district staff during the proposal process in which Dean, Quartz and The Difference Card gave presentations to the district’s insurance committee. She heard from three, all of whom favored the change.

“My primary concern was morale and staff retention,” Thome said.

Follow Susan Endres on Twitter @EndresSusan or call her at 745-3506.

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