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Community Health Centers - Promoting Equity in Health Care

A new report by the Commonwealth Fund states that achieving equity in health care involves both the availability of affordable, comprehensive insurance coverage and the presence of a committed, regular source of care. For more than forty years, the nationwide network of Community Health Centers has provided high-quality, affordable primary care and preventive services to medically un-served and under-served communities.

Health centers serve as health care homes to more than 16 million low-income people, a majority of whom are uninsured or rely on public coverage, like Medicaid and Medicare. Nearly two-thirds of their patients are members of racial and ethnic minority groups. A majority of health centers are located in high-need areas where residents would not otherwise have access to physicians. Many offer transportation, home visitation and alternate language services in addition to medical services. Health centers also assist patients regardless of insurance status or ability to pay. They exist precisely to serve those who do not and cannot access care elsewhere and patients continue to choose health centers because they do an excellent job of providing health care.

Study after study has documented the effectiveness of health centers in terms of access, quality, and cost. Health centers remove barriers to care and deliver services in a manner adapted to patient needs, improve outcomes and mitigate health disparities, and are affordable and generate a return on investment.

Previous independent studies confirm health centers’ strong record in improving access to care for underserved people, providing high-quality health care, lowering costs, and saving money for taxpayers and society. Health centers excel at providing many of the components of a medical home, including: being a regular provider or place of care; no difficulty contacting a provider by telephone, getting advice on medical care during weekends or evenings; and office visits that are well-organized and efficiently-run.

Existing health centers make great efforts to meet the needs of new patients lining up at their doors and should be commended for their achievements. Even with the growing numbers of Americans utilizing health centers, millions more are in need of a medical and health care home.


Adapted from the statement of Dan Hawkins
Senior Vice President for Policy and Programs, NACHC
Responding to the Commonwealth Fund Report Closing the Divide
June 27, 2007


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