Dr. Michael Koenig, know locally as “Doc Mike”, arrived in Garden Valley in 2002. He put himself through college earning money as a logger. His medical practice began in a place he loves and raised his family here with his wife, Rosemary. He started out with humble beginnings in the building that is now the Outreach Center on Banks Lowman Road. Using his own money, he built the clinic he works out of now. He has expanded his practice to HSB under a separate taxing district. Dr. Koenig was selected as Idaho’s 2013 Family Physician of the Year by Idaho Academy of Family Physicians.
Recently, Dr. Koenig decided not to renew his contract with the Garden Valley Hospital Taxing District. He was able to provide supplemental care for the community through the Hospital District. According to Dr. Koenig, this change happened after what he claims as “being poked in the eye one too many times.”
Dr. Koenig explained his history with the GVHTD and how things became what they are today. One of the current issues is regarding a budget cut of $5,000. In the Fall of 2017, it was determined that there would not be any changes in his contract with the GVHTD after the budget review for 2017-2018. Unfortunately, the budget for GV Family Medicine was reduced by the $5000. Dr. Koenig began looking at his business financials much closer. He determined that, even with the GVHTD supplementing special discounted and free services, he was losing money providing these services. In the past, Dr. Mike was able to absorb some losses, however with the amended budget he could no longer shoulder these additional and rising costs.
Dr. Koenig, and his wife Rosemary, provided financial information regularly at the GVHTD Board meetings. They wanted to discuss this change with the board during the annual budget hearing but found out that the hearing was published as taking place at a prior meeting. He claims that Board Treasurer Jan Ward told him, “The budget was set, and it was pretty much too bad there was not enough money.”
Dr. Koenig was told that Garden Valley Family Medicine had the smallest decrease in the budget. He looked at the 2017-2018 budget that was published and saw that the school nurse got an increase in her budget. He says he also noticed that the youth center, which is the Outreach program, got a slight decrease but the contingency fund doubled. Then he noticed that the Medi-Cap Pharmacy operating within the Garden Valley Market was not mentioned or published in the budget.
Dr. Koenig says: “It is difficult for me to trust some members of the board.” This has, in his opinion, contributed to continuing problems he has faced in dealing with the GVHTD. He has observed that the board is spending the tax money on non-medical things, while there is increased financial burden of providing discounted medical to the community. Dr. Koenig says, “The public should be aware that over the past ten years, the GVHTD has spent an amount of well over $700,000 of taxpayer money for non-medical services. I think it is important for people to know this figure.”
After looking at what the public voted for in 1985 in the creation of the Garden Valley Hospital Taxing District, he sees the board going in into a different direction. “They are not adhering to the spirit of what the public voted for in the original petition,” according to Dr. Koenig. He hopes that the board will be prepared to answer questions of why they are spending money on non-medical equipment and services. Dr. Koenig plans to answer those questions accordingly and will explain everything if asked.
Going forward, Dr. Koenig did send to the Board his thoughts on what the contract with the GVHTD should look like. He reminded Greg Simione, Board Chair, that the district should follow the original 1985 petition and that 100% of taxing district funds should go to the clinic to help subsidize the discounted Medical Services he has provided in the past. The Hospital Board has characterized this proposal as an “all or none proposal.” Dr. Koenig agrees with that statement and says, “I am letting the Board look at this contract proposal for a few weeks. If they decide this is not the direction they want to take, then my plan is to, with legal help, draw up a petition for the dissolution of the taxing district. There would be time to get it on to the May ballot.”
Dr. Koenig says, “The public needs to be aware of how money not being taken by Garden Valley Family Medicine will be used by the GVHTD, since their Charter indicates money should be spent on Clinic operations or something very close to that. Otherwise, in my opinion, the taxing district does not have a reason to exist.” As he sees it, non-clinical use of taxpayer money in a Hospital District should be put before the voters.
What Dr. Koenig is asking for is that he be covered in a fee-for-service model for his participation and it would need to cover any written off like sliding scale, free care, and non-payment of medical charges for those with or without insurance. He says, “If Garden Valley Family Medicine’s participation in home health continues we would require coverage for time spent on Home Health Services which are otherwise not reimbursed. He continues to have these discussions with members of the board.
Property owners in the GVHTD may be looking at a voter-approved option to disband the district. Dr. Koenig would then like to see a new District formed in November of 2018. He says he has spoken with the county on how to do the petition. It would take 10% of the eligible voters who own property within the district to sign the petition.
Dr. Koenig says, ” I’m going to tell people, when they ask, why we are not contracting with the Hospital District. The truth is that our budget was cut, the contract was not viable, and that taking public money, even at a substantial loss, is not worth the strings attached.” He states that the public will need to be on board with all of this to move forward with the petition.
As Dr. Koenig continues to state, “I will retain the offer to the Board so long as the Hospital Taxing District money received will go directly to the operation of a medical clinic or medical care delivered by a medical clinic.” He adds, “People should know that the original ballot measure states that no money should go to any other non-medical use. I could not count a dental clinic, school nurse, or anything outside of that strict definition as a legitimate use of the money. The public will need to be on board with this or I am not interested.”
He also states, “The money will need to be officially used as compensation for the services my office provides, which I laid out to the board. I am not comfortable taking a lump sum every month for support of the clinic or something like that. That is too vague, and it can have too many strings attached in the public view. These district taxpayers need to clearly understand what they are getting for their money. Again, if the public chooses not to support the provision of discounted Medical Care, etc., then I think the district needs to dissolve and I will work towards that.”
The last thing that Dr. Koenig wants to make clear, if he were to contract again, is that the GVHTD will not spend money on anything other than direct operation of a medical clinic. He says, ” If the board is not acting in good faith, he would not be able to proceed. He confirms that “we will cancel future contracts. This would not be negotiable any longer.”
Written by Janet Juroch