SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Plan to Open Medicare Treatment Facility Announced
Public and Private Partnership Comes Together
on Innovative Plan to Open Needed Clinic


February 16, 2010

Anchorage, Alaska - Senator Kevin Meyer, R-Anchorage, announced Friday that he and other Alaska legislators will put money in this year's budget to help a coalition of medical professionals and non-profit corporations create an innovative clinic in Anchorage to serve Medicare recipients.

"There are more than 26,000 Medicare recipients in the greater Anchorage area, and, because of a lack of certain kinds of doctors, as well as low Medicare reimbursement rates, a significant number of them have a difficult time finding a primary care physician," said Senator Meyer. "I have been working for several years now to bring together a broad coalition of public and private entities to create a new clinic to address this problem."

Senator Meyer explained that a lack of internists, family practice doctors, combined with low reimbursement rates paid by Medicare, have left a lot of Alaskans without the primary care they need. By 2014, the number of Medicare recipients is expected to increase 40% to over 36,000.

Dr. George Rhyneer, an Anchorage cardiologist, has been spearheading an effort to open a clinic for years.

"This concept came to some other physicians and me a few years ago as a possible solution to the Medicare access problem, which didn't seem to be amenable to federal repair," said Dr. Rhyneer. "We hired a company to put together a business plan to see if it would pencil out financially. We now have a business plan in hand that shows that, if we operate efficiently and provide high quality care, we can begin to be self-supporting by the third year of operation. We just need financing to get it started."

The feasibility study concluded the clinic was financially viable as a non-profit company. However, said Dr. Rhyneer, it will need start-up capital in the amount of $1.7 million. This will be enough to rent space in Anchorage, set up and staff the clinic, and operate it for the first two years. From the start, said Senator Meyer, it was clear that both public and private sector participation would be required for success.

"I appreciate the bottom line business approach, with private sector buy-in, of Dr. Rhyneer and the others who have put this project together to solve a serious problem for our seniors," said Representative Bill Stoltze, co-chairman of the House Finance Committee.

"Representative Stoltze and I will be championing this issue to make certain the needed funds are included in this year's capital budget," said Representative Mike Hawker, the other co-chair of the House Finance Committee. "I think this is a huge opportunity both to succeed, set ourselves as a national example and build a model that will be copied across the country in years to come."

For the last two years, a group called ACCESS has been working with Senator Meyer on this endeavor. ACCESS is a non-profit corporation, comprised of the Alaska Physicians and Surgeons, the Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association, Providence Health and Services Alaska, and the Alaska State Medical Association.

Due to the low reimbursements from Medicare, the clinic will use a 'high efficiency' model and be staffed by one physician, three nurse practitioners, and several medical support personnel.

The operational plan for this clinic was designed by a number of active Anchorage physicians who are experienced in general outpatient medical practice. The overall mission of the clinic is to institute a new way of staffing and organizing a clinic to take advantage of the highest function levels of each practitioner while at the same time offering quality care for identified acute and chronic medical problems in the Medicare population in Anchorage.

In September of 2009 the Alaska Medicare Clinic, a 501(c) 3 corporation, was formed to begin raising money for the clinic.

"Dr. Rhyneer and his group have done a pretty good job raising money in the private sector, but they still need more. Depending on how much they can raise in the next few months, they are asking the legislature for a state grant of up to a million dollars," said Senator Meyer. "The group also contacted Senator Lisa Murkowski, and her office told me yesterday that the Senator wants to help out with this concept, so we're hopeful that she will be able to get us as much as five hundred thousand dollars."

Dr. Rhyneer said that, if the funding comes through this spring, they hope to be able to start providing care to Medicare recipients by the end of this summer.


Source of News:

Senate Bipartisan Working Group


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Ketchikan, Alaska