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Anchorage's Medicare clinics need more patients

Posted: January 31, 2012 - 12:00am

ANCHORAGE — When two clinics opened for Medicare patients in Anchorage last year, they were initially flooded with patients but demand has tapered off.

Providence Senior Care Center opened just about a year ago and the Alaska Medicare Clinic in south Anchorage opened in May to respond to a shortage of doctors willing to take Medicare patients.

Combined, the clinics have seen nearly 3,000 patients.

But that is far less than an estimated 8,000 to 10,000 Anchorage Medicare recipients who were believed to be without a primary doctor last year.

Without more patients, the two clinics won’t break even, the Anchorage Daily News reported Monday.

Dr. George Rhyneer, a retired cardiologist who spearheaded the creation of the nonprofit Medicare clinic in South Anchorage, said he thinks a lot of specialists stepped in to treat patients for primary care needs — the flu, high blood pressure, diabetes — at a time when the patients couldn’t find regular family doctors. Many may be satisfied with that approach and stuck to it, Rhyneer said.

Rhyneer said the break-even point will be 45 patients a day.

The average so far is about 25, with 1,400 patients visiting the clinic so far.

Providence Senior Care Center was expecting as many as 5,000 patients the first year. The center has seen only 1,500, said Dr. Tom Hunt, director of physician services for Providence Alaska Medical Center.

Hunt said while immediate needs may have been met, he believes there is still need among seniors relying on federal medical insurance for their medical care.

The number of senior citizens in Alaska rose by 7 percent from 2009 to 2010, according to the Alaska Commission on Aging.

Alaskans 60 and older are the fastest growing segment of the state’s population.

That group grew at a rate of 71 percent from 2000 to 2010, according to a commission report, from 53,026 people in 2000 to 90,876 in 2010.

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