Alaska Physician Shuts Down Practice, Citing Obamacare

Sarah Hurtubise | Reporter

After a long list of Obamacare failures in Alaska, one physician is shutting down his decades-old practice, charging that the health-care law and other federal programs are “unsustainable” for practicing doctors.

Dr. William Wennen, a plastic surgeon, is closing his Fairbanks practice after 38 years of working in the state. Dr. Wennen blames federal health insurance programs, citing Obamacare, Medicaid and Medicare, for shutting down his practice.

“It is an unsustainable system,” Dr. Wennen wrote to his customers in a letter obtained by The Daily Caller. “I am personally writing off upwards of three quarters of a million dollars annually in free/uncompensated care.”

“My reasons for closing down the office are simply economic,” Wennen wrote. “The governmental agencies that are supplying ‘medical insurance’ to the elderly, the disadvantaged, the indigent and the sick, injured, or disabled have placed an unrealistically low value of worth on physician’s services.”

Medicaid typically has the lowest physician reimbursements of any federal program. Doctors have been protesting pay cuts for services through Medicaid and Medicare. It’s increasingly difficult for customers to actually find health care providers that accept the coverage — especially in private practice, where doctors are more hard-pressed to be profitable than at big-budget hospitals. (RELATED: Less Than Half Of Doctors In Nation’s Largest Cities Accept Medicaid)

“Within the last month, Fairbanks has lost three other much respected physicians for the same or similar reasons,” Dr. Wennen wrote. “I am not the first and certainly will not be the last of the exodus of physicians from active practice because of all of this.”

Dr. Wennen is far from alone in his stark opposition to the health-care law. A recent survey from the Physicians Foundation found that 46 percent of doctors in the U.S. would give Obamacare a “D” or an “F,” the Washington Examiner reported.

For his part, Wennen hopes to continue providing medical care through other avenues, but can no longer afford to keep his practice. Other doctors nationwide have simply refused to accept coverage provided by federal agencies — even private coverage sold through Obamacare exchanges. (RELATED: Doctors Begin To Refuse Obamacare Patients)

If other physicians follow in Dr. Wennen’s footsteps, Alaskans may have an even more difficult time accessing health care in the future. And that’s after Obamacare’s already hit the state especially hard — the state Obamacare exchange is facing some of the highest rate hikes in the nation.

Premera Alaska is upping its rates by 37 percent — and says even that isn’t enough. The state insurance department expects Premera will lose $5 million in 2015 alone at these rates. The only other carrier, Moda, will up rates by 27 percent.

Incumbent Democratic Alaska Sen. Mark Begich, who voted for Obamacare, has already taken hits over the drastic rate hikes. Sen. Begich is in a tight race against former state attorney general Dan Sullivan, who’s made gains in several polls over the past month.

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