The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services awarded $150 million in grants on November 7 to 236 community health centers nationwide.
Starting in 2011, the HHS began an unprecedented five-year program to provide $11 billion to community health centers, pursuant to the Affordable Care Act. The latest round of grants will allow these centers to expand services to an estimated 1.25 million patients.
“We are committed to providing more people across the country with the quality patient-centered care they deserve,” Secretary Kathleeen Sebelius said in a news release. “Health centers are key partners in the improving access to quality, affordable health care services for those who need it most.
“With new, affordable health insurance options available under the Affordable Care Act, community health centers are also key partners in helping uninsured residents sign up for health coverage – many of whom have been locked out of the health insurance market for years.”
Community health centers have long been a primary source of health care services for many low-income populations, especially those with large out-of-pocket costs, such as people with disabilities.
To be eligible for funding through the ACA, the community health center must be certified as a Federal Qualified Health Center, meaning that it operates in a medically underserved area. The Health Resources and Services Administration uses four variables when determining whether an area qualifies as an underserved area: the ratio of medical care physicians per 1,000 people, the infant mortality rate, the percentage of people with incomes below the poverty level and the percentage of people above age 65.
These centers must provide services to all people who come through their doors, with fees adjusted based on the person’s ability to pay.
Since 1965, the HRSA has recognized more than 1,100 centers.