A new report from the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC) highlights Community Health Centers as a health care solution that has already been in place for over 50 years, with broad bipartisan support. The report, “Strengthening the Safety Net,” makes the case that while the debate over insurance coverage is important, the question of ensuring access to high-quality, affordable care is equally important. Health centers have succeeded for decades in providing that care in some of America’s hardest to reach communities where there are few or no options for care,.
“One in five Americans do not have access to a place to go for regular care,” said Dan Hawkins, Senior Vice President for Public Policy and Research at NACHC. “That fact alone is why strengthening the safety net must be an essential part of the conversation about improving health care in America. Community Health Centers not only deliver quality, affordable health care to 25 million Americans, they have also been called upon to confront the most vexing challenges facing our health care system: from caring for underserved veterans, to combatting the opioid epidemic to stemming the outbreak of the Zika virus in Puerto Rico, Florida or elsewhere.”
The NACHC report also highlights the recent growth in both the number of patients served and the kinds of services offered at health centers:
- Community Health Centers serve nearly 5 million more patients today than in 2010.
- Behavioral health services have grown by 56 percent since 2010. Over 80 percent of health centers now offer behavioral services, such as mental health counseling and addiction-related services.
- More than 76 percent of health centers offer oral health, and 40 percent offer pharmacy services.
- More than half of health centers (55 percent) are located in rural areas, serving 13 million patients and in many cases are the only provider for hundreds of miles.
- Health centers serve more than one in six Medicaid beneficiaries for less than two percent of the national Medicaid budget.
- In terms of total costs of care, health centers save 24 percent per Medicaid patient and up to 30 percent per Medicare patient, when compared to patients cared for in other settings.
The NACHC report comes as thousands of health center advocates descend on Washington, D.C., for a national conference and to make the case to House and Senate lawmakers about the value of continued investment in a system of care that has delivered both increased access to care and lower costs for taxpayers. Health center leaders are also raising awareness about the primary care funding cliff, which is set to take place if Congress does not act to address it before October 1st. According to the federal government’s own estimates, the effects funding cliff of would be dramatic and immediate if Congress does not act. Approximately 2,800 health center locations would be forced to close their doors, more than 50,000 current clinicians and other staff would be out of work, and most importantly, some 9 million patients would lose access to care.
To learn more about Community Health Centers and their value to the U.S. health care system visit www.nachc.org.