Community Health Centers
Community Health Centers (CHC) are non-profit clinics designed to serve those who are uninsured or underinsured. Usually these clinics are for general healthcare but there are also clinics that provide services in women’s health, pediatrics, and other specialized care. CHCs may be federally qualified, which entitles them to grants and funding from the Health Resources and Services Administration. Over 20 million Americans utilized a CHC in 2011 for a total of over 80 million total visits. Of those consumers, 36% had no health insurance coverage and over one million were homeless.1
The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) currently provides federal funding to over 8,500 CHCs in the United States and its territories. One of every 15 Americans relies on an HRSA-funded clinic for their primary healthcare.2
The Affordable Care Act (ACA), sometimes referred to as Obamacare, established the Community Health Center Fund, which will provide $11 billion for the support and expansion of CHCs nationwide through 2016.3
There are several requirements that a CHC must meet in order to qualify for federal grant money. The following are only some of the standards for set federally qualified CHCs by the Health Resources and Services Administration:
- Patients are charged on an income-based sliding scale. No one is denied care if they are unable to pay
- Clinics must employ physicians with admitting privileges at a local hospital or have a plan in place to ensure continuity of care
- After hours care is provided in case of emergency
- Clinics that request funding to serve a significant homeless population must offer substance abuse treatment programs
Community Health Centers traditionally operate in what are known as Medically Underserved Areas (MUAs), or geographical regions that meet criteria established by the HRSA. Usually MUAs have a significant number of residents that have income below the poverty line. Regions or populations may also be designated as Health Professional Shortage Areas, where the ratio of primary care providers to residents is too low to meet the medical needs in the area. CHCs are funded in these regions as a way to increase this ratio and directly serve those residents that need access to free or low-cost care.
The following link provides data on individual Community Health Centers in the United States. 2011 Individual Health Center Data.