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Letter: Community must act now for new clinic

The lead story of Thursday’s Albert Lea Tribune dated Oct. 31, 2019, tells us the Albert Lea Baby Place is now closed, and most of the inpatient services associated with the hospital have been moved. What’s done is done. The past is prologue. It is time to move forward with a new plan.

Thanks to a determined group of community leaders and concerned citizens, a new plan to replace lost services and regain control of health care is in place. As a result, we now have an alternative health care provider, MercyOne. They will lease space from the new clinic to be built within the fo rmer Herberger’s location owned by the Albert Lea Healthcare Coalition and directed by a local board of trustees. They are committed to restoring lost health care services using a five-phase business plan to be driven by patient load. Each phase will require additional space in the buildout of the clinic, estimated to be about 40,000 square feet when completed.

Change often produces unexpected results and opportunities. Comparisons of health insurance premiums using similar plans show residents of south central and southeastern Minnesota paying 25% or more for their health insurance than residents in Minneapolis. Lack of competition among health care providers appears to account for much of the difference. With competition and cost controls negotiated by the Albert Lea Healthcare Coalition, those employers who have pledged to join the coalition’s health plan are projected to have a combined savings of $15 million in insurance premiums annually. Such savings can be used to retain and grow the business of these employers. The fact that Freeborn County will be an island surrounded by counties with higher health care costs should be an attraction for companies looking to locate in Minnesota. It is hoped that city and county economic enterprise departments will use this opportunity in their recruiting efforts.

To realize the opportunity afforded us, we must act now and raise the funds needed for repairs to the Herberger’s building and for the clinic buildout required in phase one. It is most important that we step forward and donate to the construction project as expeditiously as possible.

Roger Truax

Albert Lea