Many Kansans still without health insurance; some turning to other options

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A new report from the Kansas Health Institute finds more than 200,000 Kansans still don't have health insurance, and most of those people have full-time jobs.

Some of those people are now turning to other options.

Cara Duchesne is dealing with a sore throat. She's grateful her doctor could get her in right away to have a look.

"We check in fairly regularly, which is awesome," Duchesne said.

But this is new territory for Duchesne. She's self-employed and can't afford health insurance. So for the past six years, she didn't see a doctor.

"I was relatively healthy. I didn't feel like I needed health insurance," she said.

As an accountant, she knew that meant paying a tax penalty under the Affordable Care Act.

"I felt like it was better for me to pay that penalty than to pay for health insurance all year because I wasn't going to use it," Duchesne said.

But recently, she heard about Dr. James Smith and his new practice called Infinum Health in Gardner.

It's a "direct primary care" model, where patients pay a monthly membership fee, for unlimited visits to the doctor all year. They've even got an in-house pharmacy with low-cost medicines.

"There's massive deficits in the availability of health care, not just patients that have money but those that don't have money," Smith said.

Duchesne said her $80-per-month membership is well worth it and saves her thousands of dollars a year, not to mention the benefits for her well-being.

For the past two years, she's suffered from debilitating stomach pain. She's now got a diagnosis and treatment plan, without breaking the bank.

"I'm so glad that I made that investment in myself," Duchesne said.

Of course, routine health care is critical in helping catch concerns and treating problems before they become more serious.

"Having that reassurance that somebody knows what's going on, is there to help guide you through a process, it is extremely empowering," Smith said.

But Smith said even without insurance and using a clinic like his, you should still consider carrying catastrophic insurance coverage as a fail-safe.

And Duchesne hopes elected leaders will ultimately work to solve the health care crisis.

"We have all these taxes we're paying and we don't have health care? I don't understand that. And I think it takes people putting aside parties or divisions or whatever else. Put it aside, worry about the people you're there to represent and take care of them," she said.

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