June 14, 2006
The lower rates are the result of a federal readjustment of the Alaska geographic differential and they affect outpatient services at all of SEARHC's facilities, said Mark Gorman, the vice president of SEARHC Community Health Services. The rates were established by the Medicare Modernization Act, which set rates for Alaska at 67 percent above the national average for 2005. Once the initial 12-month period was over, the rates dropped down to about 6 percent above the national average, Gorman said.
The increase in the geographic differential happened at the same time SEARHC changed national fee-setting services, and that allowed the jump to slip through the cracks last year, Gorman said.
"We received a lot of complaints in the last year about our fees, and we heard anecdotes about people going elsewhere for services because it was cheaper," Gorman said.
The reduced fees should provide some relief to patients who have no insurance or have to pay high deductibles. It especially will help people who are uninsured, but don't qualify for the clinic's sliding fee schedule. Under the new fee structure, the cost for a problem-focused visit, such as for a sore throat, has dropped from $119 to $79. The cost of a comprehensive annual exam dropped from $332 to $222.
"SEARHC is very pleased to be able to offer this decrease in price for our quality health care services," said Cindy Gamble, the clinic administrator for the Alicia Roberts Medical Center.
Patients with questions about the new fees can call Cindy Gamble at 1-907-755-4800 or they can contact her by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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