Medical Center to charge $15 facility fee for PT visits

Thu, 11/08/2018 - 6:30pm

The price for getting physical therapy at the Block Island Medical Center will be going up in the New Year. In order to sustain its physical therapy program the Medical Center will be adding a $15 facility fee for patient visits. The facility fee will not be covered by insurance, and will be an out-of-pocket expense for patients receiving PT. 

The $15 facility fee is aligned with what the Medical Center charges for visits with other specialists.

Medical Director, Dr. Mark Clark, provided the Block Island Health Services Board with that news while giving his monthly report at the board’s Oct. 29 meeting. Over the past year Clark and the board had been considering the need for adding the facility fee for its PT program.

“What it looks like we will need to do just to break even — and that’s really our goal to be financially responsible and break even once our donor money winds down — is this facility fee,” said Clark. “The plan is to initiate a $15 per visit facility fee starting in January. That gives us enough time to inform everybody so that it’s not a surprise.”

Clark said if the Medical Center didn’t have the physical therapy program, which is run in partnership with the East Providence-based Healy Physical Therapy, “it would mean a trip to the mainland” to get treatment. “So we’re going to charge the $15,” he said. “It’s going to be done separate from what the insurance is charging for the visit.”

“This is just for sustainability for Block Island Health Services, so we won’t dig ourselves into a hole,” said Clark, who noted that the PT program has seen over 1,000 patient visits for the year-to-date. “A year ago we didn’t have this program. So, I think it’s been a huge success.”

“I’m not surprised” about the success, said board member Donna Corey, who asked Clark if the “facility fee would be covered by medical insurance?”

“The facility fee will be an out-of-pocket expense,” said Clark.

Corey noted that during her travels on the ferry she had “heard many people complaining about having to leave the island to get medical treatment.”

President Cindy Baute said Mike Healy, owner of Healy Physical Therapy, wants to maintain the relationship with the Medical Center.

“In general, they’re very happy with the program,” said Clark. “And we asked them if we could add another day — expanding to four days rather than three next year. So we’re looking at, in the spring, going from three days, to three-and-a-half, to four days. And I think we can fill it.”

Clark said the board needs to keep in mind that “this was a pilot program. We weren’t really sure what was going to happen with it. We’ve had a very, very, very generous donor, an island couple, who thanks to them, this was actually able to happen.”

“It’s helped a lot of people,” said Clark. “There are folks who would not be on island right now if we didn’t have this program. So moving forward we want to increase it to another day, and also, in keeping with our mission of education and prevention, we want to have Mike Healy come here for one or two BIHS community sponsored sessions on the value of physical therapy, and to help people understand what the services are.”

Clark said the Medical Center would be scheduling the sessions with Healy for November and December.

Complicated cases

“We’re busy,” said Clark. “There are a lot of complicated medical cases that we’ve been seeing. These are folks who are either shoulder season visitors, or islanders. So the clinic is pretty busy.”

Board member Jim Fiorato asked Clark if the complicated cases were “very specific? Is it certain people, or age-related, etc.? Is the Medical Center now attracting more complicated cases, and can expect that? Is this the basis for a resource requirement going forward?”

“In general, as our volume goes up, and more people come here for their primary care, we are more involved with comprehensively taking care of people’s illnesses,” said Clark. “That’s always happened here.”

“I’m just worried about a resource requirement going forward, because you and everyone are doing such a great job, and you’re attracting more patients, and at some point there will be a threshold,” said Fiorato.

“I think about that all of the time,” said Clark. “When you’re talking about 5,000 or more patient visits per year, with or without residents and students, that’s a lot. So, we have to think creatively moving forward or how we’re going to augment that for the health services.”

The next BIHS meeting is scheduled for Monday, Nov. 26 at 4 p.m.