It might surprise you, in the midst of the Dynamis debacle, to see me offer a few good words about lame-duck Ada County commissioner Sharon Ullman.
It might surprise you to hear David Case — the newly appointed Ada County commissioner who has been fighting the good fight on Dynamis — praise one of Ullman’s initiatives.
But in an editorial board interview Wednesday, Case went out of his way to compliment the county’s health screening partnership — designed to catch illnesses before they result in a costly (and taxpayer-funded) trip to the emergency room.
“I see that as a real benefit, and I applaud the past commission for going down that road,” said Case, who defeated Ullman in the May GOP primary and is seeking a four-year term in November.
The free screening program is a winner, for several reasons:
* It’s collaborative, bringing together the county and several partners. One is Idaho State University: students staff the screening booths, which keeps the cost on a shoestring and provides the students some on-the-job training.
* It’s preventive medicine in action. It seems like everyone in the public sector loves to talk about driving down the cost of health care through prevention and better outcomes. Here, the principle is put into action.
* It’s potentially a big money saver. Counties and property owners are inextricably tied to the rising cost of health care. The county’s indigent services medical budget is $11.3 million this year, covered almost entirely by property taxes.
Screenings are a smart way to hold down these costs — on the cheap. Ada County is giving ISU $10,000 in 2012-13, to cover supplies and immunizations. Overall, the county is spending $150,000 on various programs designed to improve health care access, or 1.3 percent of what it puts into the reactive task of covering indigent claims.
Contrast all of this to Dynamis, the issue that has dominated news from the courthouse. Ullman and colleague Rick Yzaguirre have used brute-force politics to push this $75 million garbarge gasification plant. They’ve rejected the common-sense idea of hiring a third-party consultant to review potential health effects. And of course, the county has a highly speculative $2 million public investment in this project (and we’ll surely have more to say about that in the days to come).
Here’s one more problem with a debacle such as Dynamis; it looks all the worse when it is considered alongside a common-sense governing idea.
Ada County’s next free screening is scheduled for 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday at Immanuel Lutheran Church, 707 W. Fort St., Boise. Services will run the gamut from blood sugar testing to oral and dental health exams to flu shots.
Here’s hoping these screenings continue — regardless of who ends up on the commission come January.