Changes under the Affordable Care Act impact different health care providers in different ways.

Pittsburg's Via Christi Hospital and affiliated offices are located the Crawford County's population center and affiliated with the largest health care network in Kansas.

In a different situation, Girard Medical Center features a hospital in the center of the otherwise rural county and physician offices in many smaller surrounding communities.

Michael Hayslip, director of community relations at Via Christi Hospital, said many of the impacts from ACA that might cause difficult discussions and decisions for hospitals in similarly sized demographic areas may not be as hard on Via Christi in Pittsburg.

The local hospital continues to expand, with the recent remodeling of an entire floor as the Dr. M.K. Parsi Women's Center, the addition of robotic surgery utilizing the da Vinci robot and the building of a new surgery center.

"We do extremely well with an expanded OB program, robotic-assisted surgery on the da Vinci robot and the addition of four new physicians in the last six months," Hayslip said.

He attributed much of that to the Via Christi and Ascension Health networks.

"Of course, being a part of the largest health system in Kansas and the largest Catholic health system in the United States, that affords us a lot of benefits," Hayslip said.

This includes network-wide sharing of best practices and clinical expertise, as well as volume-based purchasing of items related to medical care.

"We're now able to tap into those nationwide," Hayslip said.

However, health care reimbursement rates hurt regardless of scale, and Hayslip said that the federal government's reduced reimbursement rates have cost the Via Christi health system $20 million a year for the past couple years.

Even so, the hospital remains a strong advocate of increasing access to health care through programs such as Medicaid and Medicare.

"From our vantage point, we favor improved access to health care because ultimately we need to shift the uninsured population in Crawford County to insurance programs. That gives them increased access to health care coverage and health care services," Hayslip said. "Our goal is to make sure people are aware of the services that are offered and are able to take advantage of the services."

He said the making health care more available coincides well with Via Christi's mission statement.

"It's going to provide increased access and medical benefits to the poor and most vulnerable," Hayslip said, adding that this allows patients to seek services before situations get critical.

"We want to take care of you before you get to that point," he said.

And, when situations do get to that point, Hayslip said the hospital will be working to do what it can to offer additional care through assessments, education of the patient and caregiver, follow up with a primary care provider, collaboration with other providers, follow-up appointments and follow-up calls within scheduled timeframes, with the goal of reducing readmissions.

This helps prevent penalties under the ACA, which, in addition to expanding insurance coverage also is pushing for a better use of money within health care.

*Due to holiday schedules, we were unable to reach Girard Medical Center officials to find out likely impacts of the Affordable Care Act on their organization by press time.