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Rural Health Working Group Still Seeking Focus

Bryan Thompson
Heartland Health Monitor
Dr. Rob Freelove, director of the Smoky Hill Family Medicine Residency Program in Salina, (facing away, in foreground) tells members of the Rural Health Working Group how the Salina program trains doctors for rural Kansas.

A task force charged with addressing the problems of health care delivery in rural Kansas met for nearly five hours in Salina yesterday. As Heartland Health Monitor’s Bryan Thompson reports, they still haven’t settled on a direction.

Near the end of the meeting, State Rep. Jim Kelly, of Independence, asked the group to at least consider what he called “the 800-pound gorilla” in the room: KanCare expansion. Kelly thinks expansion might have helped prevent the closing of the only hospital in Independence.

“I don’t want another community to be in that position, and I don’t want rural communities all over Kansas—some frontier—to have difficulty accessing health care," he said.

But Lieutenant Gov. Jeff Colyer, who chairs the panel, said Gov. Sam Brownback formed the working group to find solutions that don’t involve KanCare expansion.

“The charge of this commission was to discuss issues regardless of whether or not you have Medicaid expansion," Colyer said.

Colyer anticipates two more meetings—one in November, and one in December. He intends to have recommendations prior to the start of the next legislative session.