A proposal to open an on-site health and wellness center for Manatee County government employees and their families will not proceed.
County commission approved a motion that the county would not entertain a health clinic run by Manatee County in a 5-2 vote with commissioners Larry Bustle and Charles Smith dissenting.
“I just don’t think it is fair for government to be in the business of healthcare,” said Commissioner Carol Whitmore, who made the motion during commissioner comments Tuesday.
Bustle said it was short-sighted for the commission to stop the process.
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“I think it needs to be investigated and considered,” he said.
The on-site health clinic was being proposed to be built in the old Merrill Lynch building on Manatee Avenue West adjacent to the County Administration Building in Bradenton. A feasibility study conducted by Aon Hewitt determined that it would cost $800,000 per year to operate the clinic in addition to the approximately $3 million worth of renovations needed at the proposed site.
“I get it that we are trying to control our costs here,” Commissioner Betsy Benac said. “We have to think of another way to control our costs here. ... It was very expensive.”
The existing physicians and clinics in Manatee County should be utilized first, Commissioner John Chappie said.
“We already have the infrastructure and the physicians around here so why not try that route first,” he said.
The proposal had spurred some concern from the local medical community during previous work sessions on the topic. Valerie Vale with the Manatee County Medical Society reiterated those concerns during Tuesday’s meeting.
“They feel it would be competition that could potentially take many of their patients,” she said. “It could literally put some private doctors out of business. ... We just feel that it is not something the physicians will ever support.”
With the commission’s action Tuesday, they are not shutting down any discussions about how to lower health care costs, Benac said.
“We are only not moving forward with the proposal,” she said. “We are shelving that. We are not getting rid of all options.”