NACHC submitted the following letter to the editor to Kaiser Health News in response to a November 28th article:
In what appears to be a pattern the KHN story reported by Phil Galewitz and Bram Sable-Smith about Community Health Centers (“When Malpractice Occurs at Community Health Centers, Taxpayers Pay, November 28th) uses selective data and outlier cases to paint a grossly inaccurate picture of the life-sustaining care that Community Health Centers provide to 30 million Americans.
Contrary to the distorted conclusions drawn by the story’s focus on very few proceedings, health centers provide high-quality care for tens of millions of underserved and vulnerable patients in the U.S.
Given the critical role health centers play in health care delivery and the substantial increase in the number of health centers and patients, malpractice claims are an unfortunate reality. KHN’s narrative focuses on a few cherry-picked cases even as it acknowledges that “settlements and court judgments do not measure the clinics’ overall performance.” The article’s focus on claims payouts during 2018 and 2021, though tragic, represent a tiny fraction of 117 million patients served and 477 million visits – meaning the reporters focus on far less than one percent of patients.
The larger and unassailable story is that health centers enforce rigorous safeguards to ensure the best patient care. FTCA coverage – the federal coverage that is the focus of this article – is not automatically granted to health center grantees. Rather, health centers must implement solid quality improvement and risk management programs to qualify for and maintain FTCA coverage. Such coverage allows essential health care services to remain affordable and accessible to economically challenged patients when and where they need it. Additionally, health centers are subject to on-site auditing of these processes to ensure they meet appropriate standards and function as intended. FTCA coverage makes health centers even more vigilant on quality of care – not less.
Every dollar invested in health centers returns value to American taxpayers. The program generates annual system-wide savings of $24 billion yearly because fewer health center patients require emergency room visits and hospitalizations. More important than dollars saved: health centers are transparent, trusted, and essential stewards of public health. We stand by their long and successful track record.
Rachel Gonzales-Hanson, Interim CEO and President, NACHC