Archive for Thursday, November 19, 2009

Clinics safety net for uninsured

November 19, 2009

When Amanda Lowe speaks of helping the homeless, she isn't talking about shelter.

Lowe, the president and CEO Health Partnership Clinic of Johnson County, wants to provide a "medical home" for the 16,500 low-income uninsured in Johnson County.

Among those are the long-term unemployed, those with part-time jobs with no benefits and those working for small businesses that don’t offer health insurance.

"Those are the people who truly fall through the gaps," Lowe said. "We'll see 4,000 patients this year, so you can see there are many people out there not getting served."

As a medical home, the Health Partnership Clinic provides primary and acute medical, dental and pharmaceutical care to uninsured patients who don’t qualifying for Medicare, Medicaid or veteran's benefits but meet federal poverty guidelines, Lowe said.

A medical home provides those patients more coherent and comprehensive care, said Lowe and Dr. Mike Jurkovich, executive director of the faith-based Truth and Mercy Medical Mission.

"The idea is to have a home where the doc knows everything about your history and managing your chronic disease rather than the patient jumping around and going to a doctor who knows nothing about a patients' history and not knowing what prescriptions they are taking or getting the wrong information on one, which has happened," Jurkovich said.

It also gives the patients the opportunity to get active treatment for conditions that if ignored land them in the emergency room, said Jodi Hitchcok, director of the De Soto Multi-Service Center.

"That could cost them thousands of dollars," she said. "If they go to one of these clinics instead, it might cost them $50."

Truth and Mercy has an income sliding scale payment schedule that serves patients for free to up to $45, Jurkovich said. Health Partnership Clinic has a $10 suggested donation, "but we never deny services because of ability to pay," Lowe said.

Health Partnership Clinic is supported by the United Way, local foundations,grants, civic groups, private donors, corporations and some state aid, Lowe said.

Its clinics at 807 S. Clairborne in Olathe and 7171 W. 95th St. in Overland Park are staffed with a full-time dentist, nurse practitioner, physician and nurses as well as a cadre of volunteers, Lowe said.

Truth and Mercy has a family practice clinic at 5817 Nieman Road in Shawnee with a mix of paid and volunteer staff, Jurkovich said. It has a birthing center and another family practice clinic in Wyandotte County, he said.

Not all medical concerns can be addressed at the safety net clinics, and Lowe said her clinics work closing with the five Johnson County hospitals for such things as testing.

Another resource is the Johnson and Wyandotte County Medical Society, whose member specialists volunteer time in their offices for clinic referrals, Jurkovich said.

With an increase in demand from the recession, the metropolitan area’s safety net clinics are attempting to better manage resources, Jurkovich said.

“Collectively, the safety net coalition is looking at how we can work better together,” he said. “That requires a lot of communication. There aren’t any easy answers, but we’re working on it.”

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