The summer deadline for privatizing the Cutler Health Center passed, and the University of Maine has not chosen a contractor for the job.
As of 2008, the university’s Health Services Review Committee began considering privatizing Cutler in an attempt to free up university funds and let students use private health insurance. UMaine originally hoped to select a contractor in May and have the company start in July.
The university accepted contractor bids Jan. 31. The HSRC has since examined them, trying to leave the students with improved services at no increased cost, according to vice president for administration and finance, Janet Waldron, and June Baldacci, director of purchasing and resource efficiency. Despite the delay, the university is still adamant about privatizing Cutler.
“We are continuing to make progress in what has turned out to be a complicated and time-consuming process,” said Steven Weinberger, assistant vice president for human resources.
UMaine required bidders to have access to laboratory facilities and provide appropriate student medication and pharmaceuticals, as well as after-hour, on-call services. Any changes in the services Cutler offers will depend on the contractor selected.
Part of the reason for the proposed privatization was Cutler’s limited services over breaks and the fact that it closes completely in July. Cutler cannot, at present, process claims from MaineCare or offer third-party billing options to students, except for prescriptions, since UMaine no longer has an on-campus pharmacy.
Cutler includes pharmaceutical services. The center’s pharmacist left the university at the end of February, but a partnership with Orono Pharmacy on Mill Street replaced the on-campus service March 1.
“It is the university’s expectation that once the contract is fully actualized, the selected contractor shall generate revenue for the university,” Baldacci said in April.
A campus-wide health services fee was considered as a method of meeting new costs because of the privatization, but the university will reject any plan that leaves its students with additional cost, according to Baldacci.
“This exercise is both complicated and detailed. We have completed our analysis of the proposals received. At the moment, we are further refining our thinking in order to generate a resolution of high quality,” Weinberger said.
The center serves 20 to 25 percent of the student body. UMaine spends approximately $1.4 million annually on Cutler, but including clinical costs, Cutler’s entire operation comes to $2.4 million, according to the committee in 2007.
A brief, updated last April by the university’s Bureau of Labor Education, outlines the risks of privatization. It stresses accountability, quality of services, employment impacts and violation of constitutional rights as the main concerns institutions like UMaine should consider before privatizing public services.