Organizers vow to open doors on time, despite uncertainty over initial funding

Dental clinic planning March opening

Posted: Friday, December 13, 2002

No longer will there be the need to travel north or south for dental care. Underinsured and uninsured dental care will become a reality in the central Kenai Peninsula.

This is the attitude officials of Central Peninsula Health Center Inc. took when faced with stagnant efforts to finance a proposed dental clinic to service Medicaid, Denali KidCare and under- and uninsured patients. As doubts hampered a move to get funding through a complicated shared funding formula called a "disproportionate share hospital payment program," other opportunities have arisen from state and federal sources.

"We're going to open our doors regardless of what happens with the DSH program," said CPHC Inc. Executive Director Stan Steadman. "The project is going to happen on our time line. We're anticipating the first of March."

In September the program received a grant awarded by the U.S. Bureau of Primary Health Care for $300,000, he said. The grant specifically targets the underinsured and uninsured.

"It's envisioned as being an ongoing grant," he said.

The original funding source called for a public facility to act as a conduit for state and federal monies, and as such, required approval from the Central Peninsula General Hospital Service Area Board, the CPGH Inc. board of directors, and the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly in order to work. The formula also needed the state Division of Medical Assistance to pool state dollars and relied on nearly $1.1 million in federal Medicaid non-guaranteed money to reimburse the state.

This plan may have been temporarily sidestepped, however. Steadman said a different source using similar methods has become available.

Bob Labbe, Division of Medical Assistance director for the state of Alaska, said unused state medical funds exist that could be added to federal matching dollars totaling 60 percent to get the dental clinic off the ground. He said new funding could be accessed more quickly than the original payment plan that would have pulled funds from fiscal year 2004.

"We have a budget for Medicaid administration," he said. "We could use funds that won't be needed in the upcoming year from administrative activities and hiring that's on hold."

Labbe said funding would come through a path similar to the DSH payment program, but would not require a public facility to channel the funds.

"We've just gotten approval recently to do a similar arrangement with a private hospital," he said.

Although he would not identify the private hospital that could be involved or specific funding sources, Labbe said as the state government changes hands he was eager to close out ongoing projects such the proposed clinic.

"We (are) going through changes in administration, and we have a deficit with the budget," he said. "I just want to get old commitments off my desk."

But Labbe said the only obstacle he perceived to continuing the project were doubts over total community buy-in, referring to concern among local dentists who worried that the clinic could impact their business and that it could face financial difficulties due to Medicaid reimbursement rates.

"We're still willing to work with it," he said. "We just want to make sure the community is on board."

Steadman said the clinic has received additional assistance from the owner of the proposed building, which is located in Kenai on the corner of Main Street and Barnacle Way.

"We have a lease with an offer to buy," Steadman said. "The owner has been really gracious to allow us to begin delivering services while leasing it."

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