Orcas Family Health Clinic seeks donations to keep its doors open | Guest column

  • Thu Nov 9th, 2017 4:40pm
  • News

Submitted by Aimee Johnson, Orcas Family Health Center

Our Board at Orcas Family Health Center recently mailed a fundraising letter to our patients. This letter is an appeal to help solve a financial dilemma that began last spring.

When I opened a certified letter last March from one of our state insurance carriers, I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. It explained that they recently discovered they had overpaid our office by over $114,000. That is a daunting number to deal with when we run a very frugal budget, and have no debt except a credit card and our accounts payable. The annual shortfall of our office averages just over $100,000 a year and during our last fiscal year, we saw 2,137 patients 7,597 times.

The letter has prompted many phone calls, questions, heartfelt words, and donations. In light of the healthcare transitions, the island has gone through the past year, one more difficult issue is not what we need, nor what the community needs.

I’m writing to answer some questions, and express to the community how we feel.

The Washington State Health Care Authority (HCA) sends funds to the Apple Health insurance companies to distribute to Rural Health Centers (RHC) as an enhancement payment. This payment is a base rate for each patient who is assigned to the RHC and comes in a lump sum either monthly or quarterly. Only one of the companies sends a list of patient names with the check. The others come without any other information. The insurance company who overpaid us was sending us our enhancement payment plus the Orcas Medical Center’s payments.

The insurance company has already paid OMC the amount they were due and are now withholding our enhancement payments to rectify the overpayment. The board and I met to discuss where we are at financially, how long the current billings could make our ends meet, and what kind of a hole we have gotten in without those several thousands of dollars coming in; the board crafted a fundraising letter based on that information. The Washington State Office of the Insurance Commission has told me we have to deal directly with the insurance company and the state and we do have a lawyer who is voluntarily working with the insurance company to see if there is any other option.

It is true that Dr. David Shinstrom works mostly without a salary. He does receive payments for start-up loans and he does get a paycheck when cash flow is healthy. He has heartily believed in continuing on until there is sustainable healthcare on Orcas. He has not set a retirement date.

As I put labels on nearly 1,900 letters to our patients my heart was aching. I want to share though, that if most of those patients sent in $100, we will exceed our goal to raise $175,000 by Nov. 27 and be able to keep our doors open and continue to serve our community.

Donations can be sent directly to the office: Orcas Family Health Center, 1286 Mt. Baker Rd, B102, Eastsound, WA 98245.

I also want to personally thank the community for the years of support and kindness.