Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Why is the Anchorage School District contracting for a medical clinic?
A: The Anchorage School District has seen the cost of health care increase precipitously over the last five years, with a trend increase of approximately 10% each year. This is simply unsustainable. The clinic provides the district the ability to offer health care at cost to members, essentially cutting out the mark up of products and services. The clinic also provides follow-up care for employees who choose to travel out of state for medical procedures.
Q: Who will be eligible to use the new clinic and when will it open?
A: At this time, the clinic can only be used by employees enrolled in District-covered Aetna healthcare plans (ACE, APA, Exempt, Food Service, Maintenance, Non-represented, and TOTEM employees).
The clinic is not currently available for employees and dependents enrolled in Public Education Local 71 Heath Trust Fund, Public Education Health Trust (AEA), or Alaska Teamster Employer Welfare Trust (Local 959 Bus) healthcare plans.
The clinic is expected to open by the beginning of next school year, during August or September of 2017.
Q: Why are health care costs so much more expensive in Anchorage, as compared to other states?
A: Alaska, due to its relative isolation and small population, has an environment that is not conducive to competition and therefore prices do not reflect market rates in the Northwest region. For example, some orthopedic procedures and associated services are 400% of Seattle.
Q: Who will run the new clinic and why were they selected, instead of one of the local primary care physician practices?
A: The district follows a Request for Proposal (RFP) public process and welcomes any interested organization to bid for services. The RFPs are publicized on the district website. This RFP, posted in July of 2016, drew only six bidders, none of which were local to the Anchorage area. At the conclusion of the process, the highest-ranking proposer, Vera Whole Health was awarded the contract. Vera is a Seattle health care company. The company currently runs eight clinics in Seattle and Arizona. You can learn more about Vera’s City of Kirkland medical clinic in an article by Forbes Magazine, and in local news coverage.
Q: How exactly does contracting for the clinic save the district money?
A: The clinic saves the district money because it operates off of a different economic model than do most clinics. The district is directly contracting for services at cost, and therefore avoids any profit or mark up of products and services provided to employees. The district estimates the new medical clinic will reduce costs by 12 percent during the initial three-year contract.
Q: How much will the clinic charge compared to others in the community?
A: The cost to use the clinic will be very competitive due to planned incentives currently under development. Incentives may include reduced out-of-pocket costs for visits and reduction to medical premiums for employees and dependents who complete wellness evaluations.
Q: Will employees be required to use the clinic instead of visiting their primary care physician?
A: No. Clinic use is optional. The district will provide incentives for employees to try the clinic for themselves and their dependents and decide which provider is best for their family.
Q: What services will the medical clinic provide?
A: The clinic will be staffed by a medical team, which will include physicians, nurse practitioners, medical assistants and health coaches. The team will provide family medicine and address patients’ psychosocial needs to help resolve medical issues. In addition to primary and preventative care, the clinic will also provide:
– Care coordination/follow-up care for medical travel,
– Onsite dispensing of 50-100 most commonly prescribed drugs,
– Disease management for chronic conditions,
– Urgent care related to Workers Comp,
– In-house lab services,
– Biometric screening,
– Health fairs,
– On-site wellness seminars,
– Personal health coaching,
– Online health and wellness portal.
The clinic would refer patients to other facilities for issues beyond the clinic’s scope of services.
Q: Where will the clinic be located?
A: Vera Whole Health has not yet determined a location for the clinic. A location will be chosen that is convenient for the district employees who will use it.
Content last updated: April 27, 2017