Community health centers (CHCs), also known as Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs), provide a range of primary medical, dental, behavioral health and enabling services, such as transportation or interpretive services, using the most advanced care practices without any regard to a patient’s ability to pay.
CHCs are vital to the Medicaid community. CHCs will be even more vital to the Medicaid community when the Affordable Care Act (ACA) (a/k/a Obamacare) is in full swing in the next couple years. With hundreds of thousands of additional Medicaid recipients, and not enough physicians accepting Medicaid, CHCs are desperately needed.
As this time, there are 30 FQHCs and three look-alikes in North Carolina representing 150 clinical sites. In 2010, North Carolina’s FQHCs served over 450,000 patients, approximately 95% of who live below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level.
CHCs rely on a combination of Medicaid payments, grant revenues, and other private and public funding sources to support their operations. However, by far, CHCS rely mainly on federal reimbursements under the Medicaid program and Public Health Service Act (PHSA) grants from the federal government.
In 2011, Congress cut $600 million per year for community health clinics from the budget or grants from PHSA. Although lawmakers softened the blow by moving money out of trust fund money accounts set up by ACA, those trust fund money accounts were set up for the ACA to finance the additional CHCs needed once Obamacare was fully executed. The money was already projected to run out in 2015.
Here in North Carolina, we still do not know whether we will be a part of the expansion of Medicaid. Politicians have been uncharacteristically quiet about Medicaid expansion.
If we do participate in Obamacare, the money taken from the CDCs’ budget will be sorely felt. Approximately 700,00-800,000 more North Carolinians will depend on Medicaid as their health insurance. With many physicians refusing to accept Medicaid patients, CHCs will be a valuable source of health care for hundreds of thousands of Medicaid recipients.
Politicians: If you are going to expand Medicaid:
1. Ensure physicians will take Medicaid by increasing Medicaid reimbursements!
2. Ensure that those Medicaid recipients who are unable to find physicians accepting Medicaid (rural areas or high poverty areas) have access to a CHC!
And do not take funding away from the entities that will afford the mass amount of Medicaid recipients high quality care!