Letter to Editor | Orcas Family Health in Need of Funds

— from Aaimee Johnson, Orcas Family Health Center Manager —

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 November 27th 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.

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Letter to Editor | Orcas Family Health in Need of Funds — 9 Comments

  1. Dr. Shinstrom’s appears to be the only practice on the island now that will draw blood for lab tests ordered by my off-island physician or give my husband a flu shot.

    I spent 30 minutes on the phone with UW central switchboard (they will NOT allow contact directly with the Medical Center) and put me through the wringer until the person on the other end –who works for multiple centers–conceded that I couldn’t get the simple lab work done there. (And I am already a registered UW patient via Seattle.)

    Mine is not the only story. I’ve heard many. We obviously need Dr. Shinstrom’s practice.

  2. Actually, I have had blood drawn for off-island physicians and have gotten my flu shots at Dr. Russell’s office consistently for 8 years. I have no idea what will happen with Dr. Russell’s move to the medical center.

  3. As President of the OFHC Board, I urge you to help us in any way you are able. We have spent 13 years funding our Care For All program so we can provide medical care for our entire community even when they have no insurance or ability to pay. Healthy lives matter and I hope you can assist us through this crisis. Our major fund raising Gala had to be cancelled this year due to a scheduling conflict. Thanks to Orcatrazz Swing Band for all their gifts of music to help Orcas Family Health Center.

  4. Check’s in the mail. OFHC Rocks! Thank you for all your service. I’m a low income person & SO appreciate you!

  5. It’s NOT TRUE that the UW central switchboard “will NOT allow direct contact directly with the Medical Center.” When you call the clinic number, press Option 2 and you will go straight through. You may have to wait a bit, however. A lot of people seem to know about it. And, it was a person at the UW switchboard that told me to use that option whenever I wanted to speak directly with the clinic!

  6. Time for us to step up.
    I was inspired by Endswell Bakery to donate all their sales this week to OFHC. My check is in the mail too. I hope our community helps Dr. Shinstrom when he has helped so many in this community.

  7. Coming down with a love support payment on Monday ,,,thank you ALL for what you have provided for myself and the community ,,,you WILL make it thru this challenge ,,,,I can feel it ❤️❤️❤️

  8. Madie–I’m happy that you were able to bypass the central Seattle switchboard. I am simply reporting what occurred when I called and had almost half an hour wasted seeking an appointment for a blood draw.