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Eastern Kansas Health Care Providers See Merger As Opportunity For Growth

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Two community health care providers in the Lawrence area hope a merger will help them offer stable medical resources to more residents of the Douglas County region.

Health Care Access, which has served the poor and uninsured of Douglas County for 29 years, will merge early next year with Heartland Community Health Center, a federally qualified health center that serves the same area. Both will fall under the Heartland name.

The merger comes as Kansans brace for possible changes to their health care coverage through state and federal policy shifts.

Federally qualified health centers provide primary and preventive care to people regardless of their ability to pay. Heartland is one of about 30 such centers in Kansas. That classification makes Heartland eligible for reimbursement through the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Melanie Coen, Heartland communications coordinator, said the two providers hope merging will help them continue to serve patients despite changes to the Kansas Medicaid program or the Affordable Care Act. 

“It is going to affect our ability to get to those folks who might be experiencing a change in their health care status because of changes at the state or federal level,” Coen said. “Between the ACA and movement by the Trump White House, there’s a lot of room for people to still be falling through gaps, especially in Kansas.”

By working together, she said, the two organizations — which serve nearly 5,700 patients— can more easily bridge those gaps and treat more people in the Douglas County area.

“It really allows us to pool our resources, strengthen one organization together to move forward and become an even bigger partner in the community,” Coen said.

The merger, scheduled to be complete by February, should not disrupt patient care or lead to staff reductions, Coen said.

Madeline Fox is a reporter for the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio covering health, education and politics. You can reach her on Twitter @maddycfox. Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to kcur.org.

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