Big health care changes impacting clinic, patients


Reporter - Jason Hibbs
Photojournalist - Justin Jones

PADUCAH, Ky. - Fewer donations, more need, and The Affordable Care Act.

The board chair at Paducah's Saint Nicholas Clinic says those three things are working against his organization.

In order to stay open, they have had to make major changes. And patients will soon have to make some changes, too.

By January, most people will be required to get health insurance.

For Robert Humphreys, who says he's self employed and doesn't have health insurance, a check-up would break the bank at a typical doctor's office.

That's why the Saint Nicholas Clinic is here. But board chair Lennis Thompson saw big problems in the clinic's future.

"Under Saint Nicholas Clinic's Mission, we couldn't see them anymore, they'd have to go find help somewhere else," Thompson said.

Thompson said it was nearly impossible to prepare for The Affordable Care Act.

"We were going to have to put in billing systems and sign up for the network, we just didn't have the expertise," Thompson said.

He said they also don't have the money, but a non-profit group called Kentucky Care, does.

"We're set up to serve all, our mission is health for all," Chris Gibson with Kentucky Care, said.

"They're currently servicing that one small piece of the population, with this partnership it will enable us to serve an entirely different demographic," Gibson said.

In January, after people like Humphreys are required to buy health insurance, they'll be able to come back for the care they need.

Kentucky Care will start operating the St. Nicholas Clinic on September 3.  The clinic will then have expanded hours; Monday through Friday from 8 to 5.  They're also considering evening hours and will likely add a pediatrician to the staff.

After Kentucky Care takes over, donations made to Saint Nicholas stay with Saint Nicholas. That clinic isn't dissolving. Now two entities are under the one roof. The board chair says the clinic still needs donations and help, they're assuring donors the money given here stays here.

Kentucky Care's parent company already operates 31 clinics in Arkansas, and one in Bardwell, Kentucky.