While the email referenced in this piece is a matter of public record, I have been asked by the author not to disclose their name. I was able to confirm that it was received by the mayor and Anchorage assembly.
On February 2 an Anchorage resident sent an email to Anchorage Mayor David Bronson, the Anchorage Assembly and the Anchorage Daily News about a problem they encountered during a visit to WEKA Medical, a for profit business who, until February 25, was providing COVID-19 vaccinations, testing and monoclonal antibody (MAb) treatments from inside the former Golden Lion Hotel.
The February email asserted that the individual’s uninsured mother, who had received a referral from their doctor to receive monoclonal antibody treatment after having tested positive for COVID-19, was turned away by WEKA because she was unable to cough up WEKA’s $550 treatment fee.
The individual said they had spoken with David Horne, the now former Operations Supervisor of the WEKA clinic at the former Golden Lion Hotel, who told them the information about the upfront fee was available on WEKA’s website. The email stated that during the conversation with Horne, he admitted WEKA’s $550 fee requirement to receive treatment was a new policy and had not been in effect as recently as December.
A notice on WEKA’s website detailed that patient responsibility for monoclonal antibody treatment was indeed $550 but that the therapy was normally covered by insurance at 100%.
“We will bill your insurance for you as a courtesy but we are “out of network” with all major insurance carriers,” the notice on WEKA’s website stated. The notice also advised patients that unless they were encumbered by a deductible, their insurance providers “should” reimburse them by check.
Frustrated by WEKA’s refusal to provide monoclonal antibody treatment to their mother on the basis she didn’t have an extra $550 laying around, the individual asked the mayor and the assembly why the uninsured were being discriminated against.
“How is this being allowed to happen?!? David Horne of WEKA admitted they received the antibody treatments free from the government, and that he is running the facility on a contract with the MOA. Why are uninsured people being discriminated against? This cannot be allowed to continue!”
On February 7, 2022, Municipal Manager Amy Demboski responded to the email writing that WEKA was a private medical provider not contracted with the Municipality of Anchorage. Demboski referred the individual to what she said was a free state of Alaska funded treatment center run by Fairweather LLC.
“WEKA leases space from the MOA, but we do not have any input into their business operations, including their fee schedule.”
The details of the lease or use agreement between WEKA and the Municipality referenced by Demboski in her email remain unknown, but it’s nice to know it exists.
Other Anchorage residents have stated publicly on social media that uninsured friends borrowed money to pay for WEKA’s monoclonal antibody treatment. Another claimed that their own visit to WEKA alleged the for-profit business was charging “everyone $550 upfront regardless of insurance” unless individuals were covered by Medicaid.
The claims made in the February email sent to the mayor and assembly ring true in light of an article published last week in EndPoint News which documented the plight of Anchorage resident Scott Selman, who underwent a double-lung transplant in 2011 after a disease destroyed his own lungs. Selman had paid WEKA’s $550 treatment fee in expectation that he would receive a 2 shot dose of the drug Evusheld. Instead, a WEKA “nurse” administered the antibody by IV infusion — an act Selman’s transplant team reprimanded WEKA for. WEKA kept Selman’s $550.
In January, a concerned healthcare worker who said they received treatment from WEKA emailed The Blue Alaskan concerned that WEKA’s $550 charge for federally-funded COVID-19 treatments could cause some in need of care to be saddled with debt or worse: remaining untreated due to economic constraints.
“I do wonder what they [WEKA] do when people without insurance present for treatment?”
It appears we now know the answer to that question.
Monoclonal antibody infusions for the treatment of COVID have been and are still 100% free of charge at the State of Alaska infusion clinic at Tikahtnu Commons. Call 907-764-3142 to schedule.