- Listed: September 16, 2018 3:22 am
- Expires: 99549 days, 6 hours
Health centers are community-based and patient-directed organizations that deliver comprehensive, culturally competent, high-quality primary health care services. Health centers also often integrate access to pharmacy, mental health, substance use disorder, and oral health services in areas where economic, geographic, or cultural barriers limit access to affordable health care services. Health centers deliver care to the Nation’s most vulnerable individuals and families, including people experiencing homelessness, agricultural workers, residents of public housing, and the Nation’s veterans.
Health Center Program fundamentals:
- Deliver high quality, culturally competent, comprehensive primary care, as well as supportive services such as health education, translation, and transportation that promote access to health care.
- Provide services regardless of patients’ ability to pay and charge for services on a sliding fee scale.
- Operate under the direction of patient-majority governing boards of autonomous community-based organizations. These include public and private non-profit organizations and tribal and faith-based organizations.
- Develop systems of patient-centered and integrated care that respond to the unique needs of diverse medically underserved areas and populations.
- Meet requirements regarding administrative, clinical, and financial operations.
How Health Centers Work
Health centers overcome geographic, cultural, linguistic, and other barriers to care by delivering coordinated and comprehensive primary and preventive services. This care reduces health disparities by emphasizing care management of patients with multiple health care needs and the use of key quality improvement practices, including health information technology.
Most health centers receive Health Center Program federal grant funding to improve the health of underserved and vulnerable populations. Some health centers receive funding to focus on special populations including individuals and families experiencing homelessness, migratory and seasonal agricultural workers, and residents of public housing. The majority of health center operating funds come from Medicaid, Medicare, private insurance, patient fees, and other resources. Some health centers that meet all Health Center Program requirements do not receive Federal award funding. These are called Health Center Program look-alikes.
Health centers leverage a variety of other related programs. Health centers that receive federal grant funding may gain access to medical malpractice coverage under Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), and some receive federal loan guarantees for capital improvements.
Federally Qualified Health Center Look-Alikes are community-based health care providers that meet the requirements of the HRSA Health Center Program, but do not receive Health Center Program funding. They provide primary care services in underserved areas, provide care on a sliding fee scale based on ability to pay and operate under a governing board that includes patients.
The defining legislation for Federally Qualified Health Center Look-Alikes (under the Consolidated Health Center Program) is Section 1905(l)(2)(B) of the Social Security Act.
Look-alikes were established to maximize access to care for medically underserved populations and communities by allowing entities that do not receive Health Center Program funding to apply to become part of the Health Center Program. Both Health Center Program award recipients and look-alikes provide comprehensive primary health care services that are responsive to identified health care needs, provide services to all persons regardless of ability to pay, and must meet all Health Center Program requirements.
Health Center Program: Impact and Growth
Over its more than 50 year history, the Health Center Program has grown from two health centers to nearly 1,400 health centers operating more than 11,000 sites in every U.S. state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and the Pacific Basin.
Health centers deliver care to the Nation’s most vulnerable populations, and now, more than ever, the Nation’s veterans.
27 million people – 1 in 12 nationwide – rely on a HRSA-funded health center for affordable, accessible primary health care, including:
- One in nine children 17 years or younger nationwide
- One in three people living in poverty nationwide
- One in five people living in rural communities
- More than 355,000 veterans
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