Federally Qualified Health Centers — the “ABCs”
Fifty years ago, the federal government’s Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) developed a program to support increased access to care for low-income individuals. Today, 1,400 of the 9,000 community clinics in the U.S. are designated as Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs).
Q How do these health centers work?
A FQHCs are community-based clinics that deliver culturally-competent, high quality primary care services to the nation’s most vulnerable. They provide patient-centered care that responds to the unique needs of medically diverse and underserved populations and also provide services, such as transportation, that increase access to care.
Some, like our Clinics, also provide integrated behavioral health, specialty, and oral health care. All provide services regardless of ability to pay and charge uninsured patients on a sliding fee scale.
Four of these FQHCs are in our community – Marin Community Clinics, Marin City Health & Wellness Center, Coastal Health Alliance, and Ritter Center.
Q What are the benefits of being federally qualified?
A FQHC-designated clinics receive government funding that includes:
- higher rates of reimbursement for Medicare and Medi-Cal visits
- discounted drugs
- free vaccines for children
- assistance in recruiting providers
- capital improvement loans
Importantly, we collaborate in a variety of quality improvement, chronic disease management, and research efforts — all of which “raise the bar” on the care we provide.
Q What is Marin Community Clinics history with FQHCs?
A Community clinics that seek FQHC designation must meet strict administrative, clinical, and financial operation requirements. A comprehensive application is followed by a rigorous initial site visit. Every three years, visits occur to ensure that the highest standards continue to be met.
Marin Community Clinics was granted FQHC status in 1993. Since that time, we have successfully completed each site visit requirement. We are proud to have received many HRSA commendations for our work in areas such as quality improvement and achieving Patient Centered Medical Home status.
Q What has been the effectiveness of the government’s FQHC program?
A FQHCs are leading the way in chronic disease management, exceeding national averages in areas such as diabetes and blood pressure management. Research has shown that integration of care has increased the detection of mental illness, improved the management of patients with multiple health issues, and improved life expectancy.
Healthcare costs have been reduced due to a decrease in emergency department visits and hospital stays.