Access to Healthcare Network sets Las Vegas expansion
Less than six months after it launched an expansion into rural Nevada, Reno’s Access to Healthcare Network is preparing an even-bigger initiative a push into Las Vegas.
But Sherri Rice, the chief executive officer of the network, says AHN will move slowly with its expansion, probably adding no more than 150 to 200 members a month in Clark, Nye and Lincoln counties.
“We need to make sure that it’s working for everyone,” she says.
AHN, a nonprofit, serves about 6,000 people in Washoe County and rural areas of northern Nevada who don’t have health coverage. Most are working poor or employees of small businesses.
Members pay a monthly fee $40 for an individual, $90 for a family and their membership allows them discounted prices from participating hospitals, physicians, dentists, pharmacies and other providers.
The attraction for providers: All the visits are paid in cash when services are provided, and they don’t have the hassle of insurance billing. AHN demands that its member keep their appointments and through its history it’s needed to boot only a handful who failed to show up when scheduled.
The critical step in the AHN expansion into southern Nevada, Rice says, is lining up health-care providers to serve the new AHN members.
In Washoe County, about 700 providers are on board with AHN, and Rice says their experience with the nonprofit’s business model is helping to assuage the worries of doctors and hospitals in Las Vegas.
“It’s hard to say no to me,” says Rice, who founded AHN in 2006. “It’s even harder now that we can show that it’s operating well. This model really does work. It’s working in rural areas, and it’s working in urban areas.”
The organization hopes to have a provider network in place in southern Nevada by the end of this year.
At the same time, AHN will begin the slow process of enrolling new members in the Las Vegas market. Signup and orientation requires an hour-long, face-to-face meeting with an AHN staffer.
Each member is assigned a care coordinator who helps them find the appropriate care and makes sure that members have a primary care physician. Members use emergency rooms only for true emergencies.
Training of a new care coordinator takes six to eight weeks, and Rice says that’s a major reason that growth will be slow in the Las Vegas area.
AHN launched the southern Nevada operation with a staff of four headed by Kara Jenkins, a law school graduate who previously held executive positions on the staff of California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Statewide, the nonprofit has a staff of about 30.
A federal grant provided financing for AHN’s startup costs in the Las Vegas area.
Membership fees cover about a third of the operating costs of the network. Grants and donations cover the rest. Private fundraising created an account to help members pay the costs of catastrophic health expense.
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