TONASKET – The staff and board of directors of the North Valley Hospital District have long sought a way to provide service to patients that would reduce health care costs for the hospital and patients alike.
The ACES (Affordable Clinic ExamS) program, which began accepting registrants this week and will be fully implemented beginning April 1, will hopefully encourage people to see their primary care physicians to prevent or catch health problems early, thereby reducing emergency room visits and more severe health problems that could have been prevented.
“With all the cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, and all of the people who have lost their jobs, we wanted to come up with something to serve the health and wellness of the community,” said NVH business development coordinator Terri Orford. “With the rising number of uninsured, the ER is getting hit hard with people who come in with problems that were preventable, or got worse because they didn’t see their doctor before their conditions became serious.
“We hope this will lead to more preventative care, and hopefully retrain people to take care of themselves better.”
ACES costs $75 to join ($45 registration plus the first month’s fee) and $30 per month thereafter. The monthly fee must be charged to a debit or credit card. An unlimited number of clinic visits then cost $5 each visit.
ACES is not an insurance program; it does not cover emergency or hospital-based services.
What it does provide are services based at the Tonasket and Oroville Family Medical Clinics (although patients do not have to live within the NVH district to use the service):
- Preventative and wellness care;
- Chronic disease management;
- In-office procedures;
- Laboratory tests that can be completed in the clinic;
- Medications and immunizations that can be provided in the clinic;
- Urgent care that does not require emergency or specialist care.
Many non-covered services receive a 30 percent discount.
A complete rundown of services and limitations is online at http://www.nvhospital.org/aces-clinic-membership/, at the clinics or at the North Valley Hospital Admitting desk.
Membership applications can also be completed and turned in at those locations. And, unlike insurance, pre-existing conditions do not come into play, and patients can use the plan immediately. The program is not only intended for those without insurance, but partners well with limited insurance plans that don’t cover clinic visits or have high co-pays.
“It’s also a great thing for businesses that can’t afford to provide insurance for their employees,” Orford said. “If they are wanting to provide a benefit for them, this is an inexpensive way to do that.”
Orford said that the past few weeks have been spent training providers and staff, answering questions and tweaking program details.
“The providers have been on board,” she said. “Gina Rao, our new PA, will kind of be our champion for it.”
ACES has been in its planning stages since last fall. Orford said one of the challenges in putting the plan together was a lack of other similar programs to draw from. She said there was a similar program at a hospital in Texas, but that a program at the Snoqualmie Medical Center served as a model.
“It was the only thing like it we could find,” Orford said. “(Patient financial services manager) Jana Symonds and (CEO) Linda Michel found out about it and went there to research it. They’ve been great mentors for us. Their program is successful, if not profitable; it does, however, help to reduce the charity care and bad debt burden and provides a way to help take care of the community.”
For further information, contact Orford at (509) 486-4163 or email@example.com, or ACES plan administrator Krista Harden at (509) 486-3136 or firstname.lastname@example.org.