Finding ways to provide care to uninsured patients
December 26, 2012
Dr. Dan Rowe is convinced that the medical professionals of Carson City and neighboring communities can show the nation that there’s a better way to provide care to the uninsured.But after months of working to build a cadre of physicians to provide free or low-cost care to residents of the area, Rowe feels discouraged.A mailing to 200 physicians in the Carson City area this autumn drew responses from only a few who were willing to join the “No Patient Left Behind” initiative, increasing its ranks to 10 doctors. A marketing expert tells him that’s a pretty good response to a direct-mail appeal, but Rowe wishes for more.Working through the Ross Clinic at Friends in Service Helping, the physicians provide free or reduced-price health care for qualifying patients. It’s nothing new for most physicians, who already are offering some free or low-cost service. “We went into this to help people,” says Rowe, the founder of the Skin Cancer and Dermatology Institute in Carson City.The initiative builds on the work of Dr. Rex Baggett, now in his mid-70s, who has been providing care to indigent patients through the Ross Clinic at 138 E. Long St. for the better part of a decade.Along with Baggett and Rowe, the charter group of physicians who agreed to provide free and reduced-cost service includes Kelly Fluitt a family nurse practitioner, and pediatricians Dr. Brian Hall and Dr. Patrick Gunn.Signing on this autumn were family practitioners Dr. Michael Jones and Dr. Tyng Jing Hwang, gastroenterologist Dr. Hong Gao, gynecologist Dr. Amy Sue Hayes and pediatrician Dr. Kathi Amrhein.The commitment of the physicians varies. Rowe says some provide free care to one Ross Clinic patient per month. Rowe, on the other extreme, has agreed to see an unlimited number of indigent patients.But the cadre of participating physicians leaves many specialties — cardiology for instance — uncovered. And Rowe simply doesn’t understand why so few medical professionals have stepped forward.Along with an opportunity to fulfill a physician’s desire to provide care, Rowe says “No Patient Left Behind” can show the nation an alternative to expensive government programs that provide universal healthcare.A one-time metals executive who earned a master’s degree in business from Arizona State before he entered medical school, Rowe has spent a lot of time thinking about the challenges of the American system of medicine. Among the biggest challenges: Uninsured patients who can’t afford routine care, wait for medical problems to worsen, then head for the emergency room to receive care in a wildly expensive setting.A community health organization built around volunteer service by physicians, Rowe says, is a far more efficient way to serve the uninsured and keep them out of the emergency rooms.While response from physicians has been slow to develop, the vision of “No Patient Left Behind” has fired up others to volunteer. Frank Ely, a retiree in Smith Valley, volunteered as a graphic artist to develop posters and a mailing to physicians. Lee Koch, founder of the marketing agency Weber & Associates in Incline Village, donated her expertise.Among their strategies was a mailing to church leaders, letting them know that medical services are available to the poor through “No Patient Left Behind.” That drew three responses.But Rowe is going to keep trying to recruit physicians and build a community-based health program.“As medical practitioners, we believe that no patient should suffer, let alone die, due to the lack of financial means,” he says.