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
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