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A Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) is a reimbursement designation in the United States, referring to several health programs funded under the Health Center Consolidation Act (Section 330 of the Public Health Service Act). Health programs funded include:

  • Community Health Centers which serve a variety of Federally designated Medically Underserved Area/Populations (MUA or MUP).
  • Migrant Health Centers which serve migrant and seasonal agricultural workers,
  • Health Care for the Homeless Programs which reach out to homeless individuals and families and provide primary and preventive care and substance abuse services, and
  • Public Housing Primary Care Programs that serve residents of public housing and are located in or adjacent to the communities they serve.[1]

FQHCs are community-based organizations that provide comprehensive primary care and preventive care, including health, oral, and mental health/substance abuse services to persons of all ages, regardless of their ability to pay.

FQHCs operate under a consumer Board of Directors governance structure and function under the supervision of the Health Resources and Services Administration, which is part of the United States Department of Health and Human Services. FQHCs were originally meant to provide comprehensive health services to the medically underserved to reduce the patient load on hospital emergency rooms.

Their mission has changed since their founding. They now bring primary health care to underserved/underinsured/uninsured Americans, including migrant workers and non-U.S. citizens.

FQHCs provide their services to all persons regardless of ability to pay, and charge for services on a community board approved sliding-fee scale that is based on patients' family income and size. FQHCs must comply with Section 330 program requirements.

In return for serving all patients regardless of ability to pay, FQHCs receive consideration from the Federal government in the form of a cash grant, cost-based reimbursement for their Medicaid patients, and free malpractice coverage under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA).

FQHCs are also called Community/Migrant Health Centers (C/MHC), Community Health Centers (CHC), and 330 Funded Clinics. The government also designates a category of health centers as "FQHC Look-Alikes." These health centers receive cost-based reimbursement for their Medicaid services, but do not receive malpractice coverage under FTCA or a cash grant.

President Bush launched the Health Centers Initiative to significantly increase access to primary health care services in 1,200 communities through new or expanded health center sites. Between 2001 and 2006, the number of patients treated at health centers has increased by over 4.7 million, representing a nearly 50 percent increase in just five years. In 2006 the number of patients served topped the 15 million mark for the first time.

Approximately two-thirds of health center patients are minorities, and 9 out of 10 have incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty line. Four in 10 health center patients have no health insurance.

The health center program's annual federal funding has grown from $1.16 billion in fiscal year 2001 to $1.99 billion in fiscal year 2007.

References

  1. ^ Health Center Program: What is a Health Center

External links

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