The Affordable Care Act and You: part 18

By WEEK Reporter

February 5, 2014 Updated Feb 6, 2014 at 4:36 PM CDT

Cook County in Illinois ranks third in the nation for most residents without health coverage.

An Associated Press study shows half the nation's uninsured live in just 4% of U.S. counties.

Here in Central Illinois a medical merger is intended to keep Peoria out of the ranks of the uninsured.

A deal several years in the making.

When Heartland Clinic CEO Farrell Davies joined her new partners from OSF's Sisters Clinic and the University of Illinois College of Medicine for Monday's ribbon cutting, it illustrated the ongoing changes in the affordable health care landscape.

"Better education, better patient care, more continuity of care," said Sara Rusch, Reg. Dean, U of I College of Medicine.

Now, under the new Heartland-Armstrong banner, the Med School residents will be able to provide more services, especially to those who use the clinic for outpatient services.

Farrell Davies said Heartland's mission is to care for the uninsured and those covered by Medicaid.

She believes the new partnership with OSF will help dissuade those with no insurance not to use the hospital emergency room for things that aren't true emergencies and where those who are insured have to pick up the cost.

"If we have a population of people who are diabetic, and they're using the ER for their primary care, needless to say its not good for the patient, its not good for the health care system, and its not good for the community," said Farrell Davies, CEO, Heartland Community Clinic.

Also, Heartland has now begun to reach out to get the uninsured coverage under the Affordable Care Act. In fact, following Monday's ribbon-cutting, Heartland staff signed up five people for expanded Medicaid through the ACA.