Groceries or health care.
That's a choice that Nikki King, executive director of Lawrence's Health Care Access, hopes her patients don't have to make. But it may be more likely because the city's largest clinic for the uninsured is losing nearly $40,000 in state funding.
"It definitely was a surprise and a disappointment," King said of the $38,000 cut in funding the clinic receives from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
The clinic, 1920 Moodie Road, is seeking $10,000 in additional funding from both the city and the county to help offset the loss.
King said if the money isn't restored the clinic may have to abandon its longtime policy of seeking only a $10 donation for care it provides to its nearly 1,200 patients per year.
Instead, it may have to implement a sliding scale payment system that would charge patients set fees. Currently, the clinic doesn't turn anyone away who fails to pay.
The news was troubling to patients waiting to be seen Thursday.
"I don't have insurance of any kind," said Carolyn Hussey, who is not yet eligible for Medicare or Medicaid but is unable to work because of health problems. "If it wasn't for this clinic, I wouldn't be able to go to the doctor at all. If it wasn't for them, I would just have to sit at home and suffer."
Whether city and county governments will be able to help the clinic make up the shortfall is uncertain. The request for additional funding is coming toward the end of both commissions' budget processes for 2007.
City Commissioner Sue Hack said she was leaning toward supporting the funding request.
"It does tremendous work and saves the community money on health care costs in the long run," Hack said. "To me, this really is a critical community service issue."
City Commissioner Mike Rundle said he agreed the clinic saved the community money by keeping uninsured patients out of the emergency room. But he said finding extra money in the city's tight budget could be difficult.
"I'm not willing to say yet that I'm supportive of an increase in funding because it could mean that we would have to cut someone else," Rundle said.
Sharon Watson, a spokeswoman with KDHE, said the Lawrence clinic was one of three - with the others in Sedgwick and Riley counties - that had their grants cut.
Watson said the state received $5 million in grant requests but had only $3.25 million to distribute. Also, the Legislature during its last session instructed the KDHE to use the money to increase the number of clinics operating in the state. As a result, the department divided the money among 24 clinics, when it previously had been divided among 15, Watson said.
The $38,000 cut represents about 10 percent of Health Care Access' $323,000 annual budget. The clinic raises about $150,000 per year from the private sector, and last year received about $700,000 worth of medication donated through pharmaceutical companies.