‘Taking care of our own’

Vancouver-based Waterford Rehabilitation and Aquatic Therapy Clinic was recently credentialed to work with veterans covered by Tricare, the U.S. Military’s health care plan for military personnel and their dependents.

The outpatient clinic at the Waterford at Fairway Village retirement community specializes in physical, occupational, speech and aquatic therapy geared toward an older population – hip replacements versus mountain climbing injuries, said Kim Lehmann, director of health and fitness.

“There are a lot of vets returning from war or who are aging with these kinds of disorders,” she said.

Many returning veterans have found it difficult to find physicians, clinics and mental health providers that take Tricare, the reimbursement rate of which is tied to Medicare’s, Lehmann said.

There are different coverage plans within Tricare, and the amount paid to providers varies by plan, location, specialty and services performed.

On top of the relatively low reimbursement rate, many therapists don’t want to take on patients who have neurological disorders, which require longer recovery and rehabilitation periods than typical sports injuries.

“That is one of our specialties,” Lehmann said. “Here they are, our veterans, and they’re not getting access to the care that they should. To us, it’s worth putting up with a little more red tape and paperwork to take care of our own.”

Dealing with an older population, the staff of 10 is used to spending more one-on-one time with clients than with traditional sports injury therapy, she said.

The clinic hasn’t yet treated any veterans, but Lehmann expects to see a couple in December. Staff is currently working on getting the word out to physicians so they can refer patients.

“It’s not a secret – doctors are watching how many Medicare patients they have because they can’t afford it,” Lehmann said. “This is a natural fit for us.”

Plus, the clinic celebrated its first anniversary in August, and as a young treatment center, being credentialed with many insurance providers is a good position to be in, she said.

Because Tricare is a BlueShield product and the clinic was already credentialed with BlueCross BlueShield, the clinic received its credentials for Tricare in about a month.

Megan Patrick can be reached at mpatrick@vbjusa.com.