KCUR News
3:29 pm
Tue July 7, 2009

Specialty Care Options Waning For Area Uninsured

Kansas City, MO – A medical society program which connects uninsured residents in Johnson and Wyandotte Counties with donated health services is experiencing major backlogs. KCUR's Elana Gordon reports.

Nearly 300 specialists currently participate in the three-year-old program called Wy/Jo Care. Through it, doctors donate their time on a rotating basis. Safety net clinics refer uninsured patients to them.

Ruth Smerchek coordinates the program. She says requests for such services have more than doubled since last year, and that the program's now struggling to keep up.

SMERCHEK: "We've had to start waiting lists on specialties that we never expected to have waiting lists on. You know, we only have 32 slots for ear nose and throat [visits]. And, they're gone already for this year."

Smerchek says the influx of patient referrals is largely due to the growing number of people who are losing their private health coverage and have few, if any, options for care.

She also says more and more physicians are signing on as Wy/Jo Care volunteers...but that still, less than half of qualified specialists within the two-county area currently participate in the program.

WYJO Care's sister program on the Missouri side - MetroCARE - reports it's also experiencing a sharp rise in referrals.

Funding for health care coverage on KCUR has been provided by the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City.

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