A Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC), more commonly known as a Community Health Center (CHC), is a primary care center that is community-based and patient directed. By mission and design, CHCs exist to serve those who have limited access to healthcare, although all are welcome. Unlike most private practices, CHCs welcome low-income individuals, the uninsured, and the underinsured. Their cost of care ranks among the lowest, and they reduce the need for more expensive hospital-based and specialty care, saving billions of dollars for taxpayers.
CHCs provide preventive services to vulnerable populations that would otherwise not have access to healthcare services. They operate under a consumer Board of Directors governing structure and function under the supervision of the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), a division of the United States Federal Department of Health and Human Services.
CHCs provide services to all individuals, regardless of ability to pay, offering a Sliding Fee Discount Scale to eligible patients. This scale is Board-approved, and discounts are based on patient income and family size. FQHCs must also comply with Section 330 program requirements, as monitored by HRSA. In return for meeting all these requirements, FQHCs receive support from the Federal Government in the form of an operational grant, cost-based reimbursement for Medicaid patients, and malpractice coverage under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA).
Expanding and strengthening the Community Health Center Program would further reduce health disparities, increase access to high quality and regular care, and boost more local economies. As a result, fewer Americans would rely on costly sources of care, such as the emergency room, thereby saving taxpayer dollars and making the overall healthcare system more efficient.
Community Health Centers are, therefore, strong public investments that generate substantial benefits for patients, communities, insurers, and governments.