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CRS releases report on federal health center program

Posted on March 21, 2012 | No Comments

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The federal health center program, authorized in Section 330 of the Public Health Service (PHS) Act, awards grants to support health centers: outpatient primary care facilities that provide care to primarily low-income individuals. The program—administered by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)— supports four types of health centers: (1) community health centers; (2) health centers for the homeless; (3) health centers for residents of public housing; and (4) migrant health centers. According to HRSA data, there are over 8,633 unique health center sites (i.e., unique health center facility locations). Facilities must meet a number of requirements to receive a Section 330 grant, but receiving these grants enables health centers to receive services or in-kind benefits from a number of federal programs.

This report released by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) provides an overview of the federal health center program including its statutory authority, program requirements, and appropriation levels. The report then describes health centers in general, where they are located, their patient population, and some outcomes associated with health center use. It also describes some federal programs available to assist health center operations including the federally qualified health center (FQHC) designation for Medicare and Medicaid payments. The report then concludes with a brief discussion of issues for Congress such as the potential effects of the ACA on health centers, the health center workforce, and financial considerations for health centers in the context of changing federal and state budgets. Finally, the report has two appendixes that describe (1) FQHC payments for Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries served at health centers; and (2) programs that are similar to health centers but not authorized in Section 330 of the PHS Act.

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Irrespective of their increased efforts, a new study released today indicates that community health centers operating in states less receptive to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) are having difficulty performing outreach and enrolling uninsured individuals. The study, performed by the Geiger Gibson Program within The George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services and RCHN Community Health Foundation, is the first to assess how state restrictions are impacting enrollment and coverage under the ACA. A press release describing key findings about the study may be accessed here.
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