As part of an ongoing effort to achieve fiscal stability, the Whitman-Walker Clinic has announced a new $25 fee for all clients of the Gay Men's Health & Wellness Clinic, the Lesbian Health Center, and for certain services specific to transgender health. The fee will be effective July 1.
The new fee will not apply to clients seeking only HIV testing. Nor will the fee apply to HIV-positive clients of the behavioral health and Lesbian Services Program, whose HIV-related services are covered by grant funding.
''While we wish we could continue offering these services for free to all our neediest clients, the economic reality is that we cannot,'' WWC's interim Executive Director Roberta Geidner-Antoniotti said in prepared statement. ''Nonetheless, we remain committed to ensuring that all our clients receive the care that they need.''
Whitman-Walker's Elizabeth Taylor Medical Center
Under the new fee system, clients affected by the $25 fee are those that have been paying less than $25 -- or nothing at all -- based on the clinic's sliding scale, in place since 2004. Prior to the 2004 fee schedule, the various entities of the clinic generally crafted their own fee schedules. These fees, however, were usually voluntary donations.
As explained by Kim Mills, the clinic's director of communications, the new fee will not affect clients already paying more than $25 for services.
Says Geidner-Antoniotti, ''Our fee scale is lower than market rate for such services, and the structure is similar to more traditional health-care providers.''
While the clinic will continue to offer HIV testing at no charge, clients needing tests for other sexually transmitted diseases but who are unable to pay the $25 will be referred to the Southeast STD Clinic at D.C. General Hospital at 19th Street and Massachusetts Avenue SE. ''[The Southeast STD Clinic] has been informed,'' says Mills. ''They're prepared.''
Whitman-Walker Clinic will make an exception to the new fee rule for those clients who cannot pay the $25, but are insured. ''We'll take any kind of insurance except HMOs,'' Mills assures.
The Whitman-Walker board of directors voted May 31 to implement the new minimum fee. It was at this meeting that the board also approved the previously announced restructuring, cutting $2.5 million from the clinic's 2005 budget. Mills said the decision to add the minimum fee was ''unanimous, without contention.''
''[Savings] will be nominal,'' says Mills of how the new fee may affect the clinic's budget. ''We're really just trying to have the community understand we're in a period with increasing costs and declining support. We just need to set a realistic floor.''
While the clinic is the main sponsor of the Capital Pride celebration, Mills says that accounting has not yet been completed to determine whether the event netted any funds for the clinic.