A 45:1 patient-doctor ratio is at least double the number of patients most primary care doctors see daily in Anchorage according to a recent article in the Anchorage Daily News. (The Anchorage metropolitan area has nearly 380,000 residents.)
But such will be the experience of many beneficiaries who cannot find a doctor that accepts Medicare and now look to two new Medicare-specific clinics for care. “Of an estimated 26,000 Medicare patients in Anchorage…probably 8,000 to 10,000 of them still don’t have primary care doctors,” according to the article.
Apparently many primary care doctors refuse all Medicare patients, won’t accept new Medicare patients, or will see Medicare patients but only if they agree to pay out-of-pocket instead.
For example, “Kay Haneline, 67, said she and her husband were both dumped by their clinic they had been going to when they hit 65. They could have stayed and paid cash at their old clinic but then couldn’t have used their Medicare or secondary insurance. ‘The whole experience was distasteful,’ she said. ‘I called over 30 different doctors and none of them would take us.’” According to health care analyst Mark Foster with the University of Alaska’s Institute of Social and Economic Research, asking Medicare patients to pay privately instead “appears to be a growing practice.”
To address the crisis, two new clinics in Anchorage have opened this year specifically for Medicare beneficiaries and those of similar age based on a triage model with high volume for a single doctor. At one, the Alaska Medicare Clinic, teams of registered nurses and medical aides spend the most 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.” The second clinic, Providence Senior Care Center, already has a two-month waiting list for new patients.
Alaska Medicare Clinic doesn’t have a waiting list yet and plans to achieve self-sufficiency when it reaches its “target load” of patients, according to one of the clinic founders, a retired cardiologist.
These new clinics in Anchorage are a well-intentioned attempt to address the problem of Medicare access but could this be the future of Medicare under the President’s takeover of healthcare law?
Staff Contact: For questions or further information contact David Rosenfeld at 5-2045.