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The History of Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC’s)

history of federally qualified health centers

The professionals who work there decide what kind of specialist care the patient may need. There are many healthcare facilities where primary care is provided, including Federally Qualified Health Centers.

What are FQHCs? 

FQHC 101

Federally Qualified Health Centers or FQHCs, also known as CHC (Community Health Centers) are primary care centers that are directed at patients. These community-based centers are here to serve patients who, for some reason, have limited and restricted access to health care. Of course, this doesn’t mean that other patients can’t use their services. Federally Qualified Health Centers accept patients who are usually rejected in most private clinics like underinsured and uninsured individuals, low-income individuals, seasonal and migrant farmworkers, immigrants, homeless people and people who live in public housing.

Federally Qualified Health Centers are local non-profit organizations managed by a board of directors that usually represent area volunteers. At least 51% of these members must use the services of the health center. This volunteer board of members must schedule monthly meetings. The members are responsible for grant applications, annual budget approval, strategic planning, legal oversight for grants and operations, clinic operations in general and evaluation of the center’s progress. At every Federally Qualified Health Center, payment depends on the patient’s ability to pay.

The History of Federally Qualified Health Centers

Today, there are over 1100 Federally Qualified Health Centers in the United States, but it wasn’t always like this. As we said before, FQHCs are also known as Community Health Centers. Before these terms, the government used another term – Neighborhood Health Centers. In the early 1960s, the administration of President Lyndon Johnson revealed a special Economic Opportunity Act which promised to open Neighborhood Health Centers for underprivileged people. In fact, these centers were one of the main points of Johnson’s War on Poverty. The act was adopted in 1964 and it took just one year for the first two Neighborhood Health Centers to be opened. Mound Bayou, Mississippi, and Columbia Point, Boston were the first two cities in the US to get such centers. The results were fantastic.

In 1975, the federal authorities passed a special Community Health Center program which was authorized under Section 330 of the Public Health Service Act. This program included a few points that helped the public understand the basic purpose of these centers and this clarification helped the centers understand their rights and duties. For instance, it was highlighted that the main focus must be placed on underserved patients. In addition, these facilities were defined as sites for comprehensive primary care. The centers were supposed to involve the local community and deliver high-quality primary care with the help of qualified, trained professional staff. Additionally, these centers were given an opportunity to establish connections and partnerships with the private and public sectors and had a governing board which included individuals served by the community health center.

We create enhancements to simplify Federally Qualified Health Center tasks

The term Federally Qualified Health Centers was used in 1989 for the first time. It was part of a draft version of a new act that would modernize and specify the work of these primary care centers. In 1991, Federally Qualified Health Centers were added as an important Medicare benefit. They were added as part of Medicaid later. It was an important year for FQHCs because they were defined more precisely. For example, the lawmakers described them as safety net providers like public housing centers, community health centers, programs serving the homeless and migrants, outpatient programs funded by different entities and more. The purpose of FQHCs was defined well too – they were here to improve the provision of primary care services in underserved rural and urban communities. Finally, it was defined that the FQHC payment would be based on reasonable costs with exceptions for certain categories of patients.

The history of Federally Qualified Health Centers continues with the Health Center Consolidation Act –  passed in 1996 – when these centers were defined as primary care centers that bring together migrants, homeless people, community and public housing primary health care programs. All these things were regulated at once. In 2002, the Health Care Safety Net Amendments reauthorized the health center program. These changes included obligations for the health centers to assure that patients won’t be denied services if they are not able to pay at the time of service. The amendments also added a requirement that health centers must participate in SCHIP. Finally, these changes authorized operational and planning grants for networks.

The Affordable Care Act and FQHCs

In 2010, FQHCs were included in the Affordable Care Act. Once again, it was highlighted that Federally Qualified Health Centers provide primary health care in so-called medically underserved areas or to underserved patients living across the USA. They must provide medical services to all residents in specific areas whether they are able to pay for these services or not.

Nowadays, Federally Qualified Health Centers serve over 20 million patients a year. The vast majority of these patients are low-income individuals and more than 70% of them have family incomes that place them below the established poverty level. The insurance status and race of the patients is mixed. For instance, about 26% of the patients visiting these facilities are African American and 35% of them are Hispanic. Five years ago, 14% of the patients were privately insured, 10% of them were insured by Medicare, 38% by Medicaid and 36% had no insurance.

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act of 2010, the patient reach of Federally Qualified Health Centers doubled. This act changed the insurance status participation of the patients, allowing Medicaid access to hundreds of thousands of uninsured patients.

The introduction of Federally Qualified Health Centers has revolutionized medical care in the United States of America.

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