The purpose of this paper is to help state policy makers understand how federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) can fit into states’ health care reform plans and help achieve state reform goals related to access, quality, and cost. This topic was the subject of a day-long meeting hosted by the National Academy for State Health Policy (NASHP) on May 5, 2008, in Washington, D.C.
The forum was attended by 40 participants, including NASHP members from governors’ offices and state Medicaid and public health agencies. Also in attendance were five teams of representatives from state primary care associations and offices and, in some cases, their Medicaid colleagues. National partners working cooperatively to address health policy issues related to FQHCs also participated. These included the National Association of Community Health Centers, the National Conference of State Legislatures, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources Service Administration (HRSA) Bureau of Primary Health Care.
Health insurance helps provide access to health services, but financial access is hardly a guarantee of appropriate use or receipt of high-quality services.
States play an instrumental role in ensuring that health service delivery systems are able to respond to the needs of the newly insured as well as the uninsured, and that regular sources of primary health care services exist and are accessible, affordable, and high quality. Despite the best plans for universal health coverage and a “card for everyone,” there always will be some, such as undocumented immigrants, who remain uninsured and need a place to go for care. FQHCs are an important source of primary health care for the underserved, including the publicly insured and uninsured. In 2007, federally funded health centers served 6.2 million uninsured and 5.7 million Medicaid patients, numbers that show why FQHCs may fill a critical role in states’ health reform plans.
This paper provides an overview of ways in which community health centers can help policymakers meet their reform goals, based on presentations and discussion at the May forum.
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