Financially stable clinic will require our support

Vashon Island cannot have a financially sustainable clinic without support from the island.

The arrival of Neighborcare Health on Vashon was a dream come true for me. Our dear idealistic progressive island needs a healthcare partner that matches our values, and finally, we have one. Everyone deserves high-quality health care regardless of who they are and their ability to pay. Neighborcare’s mission is just that. They’ve proven that for years in Seattle. And Neighborcare stepped up to help us when no one else would.

Neighborcare Vashon has a sliding-fee scale for everyone up to 200 percent of federal poverty. Their federal funding requires them to not discount charges for those over 200 percent and to make a reasonable effort to collect payment. That only includes collections when the patient does not make any effort to pay. No one is ever turned away for inability to pay.

Neighborcare is a substantial organization with 29 non-profit clinics and 800 employees. We benefit greatly from this cost-efficient scale. To address a critic’s concerns, Neighborcare’s money in the bank represents reserves of two months’ operating expenses. “Profit” on its tax return represents grants received for capital projects. And the Neighborcare school-based clinic is funded by King County Best Starts for Kids, so those funds cannot be used to support the Neighborcare main clinic.

Good news: Two new wonderful nurse practitioners at Neighborcare Vashon arrive this month. To urgently save money, this summer the clinic had to restructure from four doctors to the common cost-effective mix of two doctors and two nurse practitioners. Soon the clinic will be fully staffed.

The bottom line is that Vashon Island cannot have a financially sustainable clinic without support from the island. That means funding a budget deficit, which will be much less as more patients utilize the excellent care at the clinic. Please give it a chance.

— Baruch Roter, MD

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