After Years Of Financial Losses, Unalaska's Clinic Finishes FY18 In The Black

Jul 27, 2018

This month, Iliuliuk Family and Health Services (pictured) signed a memorandum of understanding with the Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association. The nonprofits are integrating their programs to expand local health care services.
Credit Laura Kraegel/KUCB

After a decade of deep budget deficits, Unalaska's clinic is back in the black.

"We closed the fiscal year to the positive — to $26,407," said Director James Kaech of Iliuliuk Family and Health Services. "That's huge when we were projecting a loss of more than $700,000."

Kaech said that turnaround is the result of a year spent revamping the clinic's financial strategy and rebuilding the community's confidence in local health care.

The organization has hired a chief financial officer, lowered its rates, and relaunched a donation program that collected $17,500 from island businesses.

But Kaech said the biggest difference may have been adopting new billing system that's improved the accuracy and timeliness of patient notices.  

"Our collections with the old billing company were about 20 to 30 percent," he said. "With the new billing company, we're at 80 to 95 percent collections."

Patient volume isn't as high as Kaech would like, with many Unalaskans continuing to visit doctors in Anchorage and Seattle. Still, it's improved enough that revenue is on the rise and the clinic didn't have to dip into an emergency subsidy from the city.

Now, to continue building stability, Kaech has inked a deal with the Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association (APIA), the regional nonprofit that provides primary care and behavioral health services to tribal members.

The two organizations have agreed to integrate their programs.

"So it won't matter if you're tribal or non-tribal," said Kaech. "If you're black, white, whatever you are — you can get the same care. You're not limited on where you can go."

The partnership is still in its early stages, and the two nonprofits are working on the details now. Kaech said the goal is to expand Unalaska's health care options while leveraging each organization's strengths.