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Kansas City Ranks High In Medical Access, According To New Report

Kansas City ranks No. 4 among cities in the United States in access residents have to quality doctors and hospitals, according to a report released by Vitals, a website that collects data on doctors and provider quality.

The report considered provider-to-resident ratios, doctor quality, ease of getting an appointment and wait times.

Midwest cities dominated the rankings, with Minneapolis, Milwaukee and Omaha joining Kansas City in the top ten. Cleveland topped the list.

In a phone interview from his office in New York, Vitals CEO Mitch Rothschild partly credited high-quality hospitals and providers for Kansas City’s high ranking.  

But he also attributed the high provider-to-resident ratio of Kansas City and other Midwest cities to relatively slow population growth, compared with other parts of the country.

“Fast-growing cities like Phoenix or Houston – the population is going to outpace the institutions and the doctors,” he said.

While Kansas City ranked high in access, Rothschild noted the metropolitan area has great variations in healthcare costs.

“Kansas City is kind of a known case where you have numerous hospitals in the city which have, frankly, wide prices disparities,” he said.

Dean Katerndahl, Government Innovations Forum Director for the Mid-America Regional Council, said he was “a little surprised” by Kansas City’s high ranking.

Katerndahl is one of the authors of the 2013 “Kansas City Regional Health Assessment Report” prepared for the REACH Healthcare Foundation.

He acknowledged that providers like The University of Kansas Hospital and St. Luke’s Health System contributed significantly to high-quality health care in Kansas City.

But he said that level of care is not accessible to all, particularly low-income Kansas Citians.

“We have a pretty good system of safety net care facilities, such as Swope and KC Health and Johnson County Health Partners,” Katerndahl said. “But then if you need specialty care, if you have cancer and you need an oncologist or a cardiologist, then it’s more challenging.”

He said access was also limited for Medicaid patients because many doctors do not accept Medicaid payments or limit the number of Medicaid patients they will accept.

While Kansas City fared well in the rankings, Wichita, Kan. ranked a low 35, despite its reputation for high-quality hospitals.

As a health care reporter, I aim to empower my audience to take steps to improve health care and make informed decisions as consumers and voters. I tell human stories augmented with research and data to explain how our health care system works and sometimes fails us. Email me at alexs@kcur.org.
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