Lifestyle

Clinics aim to make medical care affordable to uninsured patients

Vashon Family Practice has established a sliding-scale billing program to make medical care more affordable for uninsured patients. The clinic will charge set fees to patients who pay out-of-pocket for medical care and meet eligiblity requirements.

The office had previously worked with uninsured patients on a case-by-case basis if paying the full fees posed a hardship. Dr. Sjardo Steneker, owner of Vashon Family Practice, said he’s glad to have a standardized system in place.

“People will know up front how much it’s going to cost them,” he said, “so hopefully everybody gets better access to health care.”

The fee scale is based on family size and income. Individuals who make up to $520 per month will be charged $25 per visit, for example. A family of four who makes $1,060 monthly or less qualifies for $25 office visits.

Individuals who make up to $1,040 monthly will pay $55; those who make up to $1,560 will pay $70. A family of four who earn up to $4,241 monthly will be charged $70. Proof of income is requested every six months.

Financial information, like health information, is completely confidential, Steneker added.

Those who have insurance for which Vashon Family Practice is not a provider are also eligible for the sliding-scale program.

“People who cannot afford medical care have a tendency to wait too long to see a doctor, and acute and chronic diseases are easier to treat when presented sooner in the disease process. With the sliding scale, I hope to encourage people to come in earlier,” he said.

The other medical clinics on the Island also offer discounted services to patients paying out-of-pocket.

Dr. Charles Weispfenning, the owner of Vashon Plaza Medical Clinic, offers 30 percent discounts on medical services to patients who pay at the time of service and who do not have a previous balance, said receptionist Sigrid Thomas.

The clinic charges $107 for a basic visit — or $75 after the discount. Lab fees are also 30 percent off for uninsured patients who pay at the time of service.

Dr. Chad Magnuson offers a 30 percent discount on services at his office, Chad Magnuson Family Medicine. A basic visit is $120 for a new patient, or $84 after a discount for cash-paying patients. The cost is slightly less for returning patients.

Highline Medical’s Vashon Health Center, the largest Island medical clinic, has two options for uninsured or low-income patients.

Islanders may apply for Highline’s discounted services program and will be charged on a sliding scale based on their income, said Karen Powers at the center.

Or, those in the most need may not need to pay anything for medical services, thanks to the clinic’s anonymous donors who have established scholarship funds for that purpose, she added. Scholarships have paid for services including cuts and scrapes, fractures and women’s health care.

A full-price basic appointment at the health center is $111 before discounts based on need.

Dr. Kelly Wright at Vashon Natural Medicine offers three programs for patients paying cash as well as for those with high-deductible insurance: a sliding scale based on income and family size, discounts on lab fees when the fees are paid at the time of service and free pelvic exams for qualifying women through the Washington Breast and Cervical Health Program. Free mammograms are also available for qualifying women through the program.

At London Health Center, a naturopathic clinic that opened last April, Dr. London offers a 20 percent discount for cash-paying patients.

During the month of October — Breast Cancer Awareness Month — London Health Center is offering discounts on annual exams for women. Women who make an appointment during the month may schedule the exam for any time, not just October, and pay only $40 for the exam, not including lab fees or a mammogram.

Additionally, Vashon Family Practice, Vashon Plaza Medical Clinic and London Health Center participate in the Vashon Community Wellness Project, a program that enables low-income Islanders to volunteer in the community and receive discounts off health services and products.

For more information about the Wellness project, call Kim Curry at 498-3227 or Diane Hillaire at 463-2945, ext. 4.

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Medical Clinics

Vashon Family Practice, 463-2800

17917 Vashon Hwy. S.W.

Vashon Plaza Medical Clinic, 463-3696

17639 100th Ave. S.W.

Chad Magnuson Family Practice, 463-5401

17419 Vashon Hwy. S.W.

Vashon Health Center, 463-3671

10030 S.W. 210th St.

Vashon Natural Medicine, 463-4778

18913 Vashon Hwy. S.W.

London Health Center, 408-7400

17425 Vashon Hwy. S.W.

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