Nation & World

Medicare patients are the focus of Alaska medical clinic

linics focused on Medicare patients making a differenceALTERNATIVE: New medical centers find ways to treat elderly.


(08/28/11 22:07:38)

In South Anchorage, a new kind of medical center is trying to make it financially based on payments from Medicare -- the federal health insurance for people 65 and older, that many doctors shun.

Most primary care doctors in Anchorage won't take new Medicare patients because they say the reimbursement rates are set too low, and they lose money.

But at the recently opened Alaska Medicare Clinic, on the Old Seward Highway near O'Malley Road, you have to have a Medicare card to get in. Or be nearly old enough to get one.

The clinic intends to hold down costs by relying on teams of registered nurses and medical aides to spend more time with patients, reserving final decisions for the one doctor, Dr. Bob Thomas. When the clinic is at capacity, the idea is Dr. Thomas will see 45 patients a day -- at least double the number most primary care doctors see.

"It's this way of doing things that we think will allow the clinic to work on Medicare," said Dr. George Rhyneer, a retired cardiologist who spearheaded creation of the clinic. The clinic is a nonprofit organization.

The Alaska Medicare Clinic is the second clinic for Medicare patients to open this year in Anchorage. The other, Providence Senior Care Center, started up in January and takes patients 55 years old and older. The Providence clinic has a two-month waiting list for first-time patients, but is still accepting new patients.

The Alaska Medicare Clinic opened in May, has plenty of room still and can offer next-day appointments, said Rhyneer.

Addition of these two clinics means that for the first time in about a dozen years, people on Medicare should have no trouble finding a primary care doctor in Anchorage.

The Anchorage Neighborhood Health Clinic in Fairview accepts all patients, including those on Medicare.

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