Strengthening Health Centers in Communities Across the Country

By Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services
Posted May 01, 2012

For 45 years, community health centers have delivered comprehensive high-quality primary care and preventive services to millions of Americans in the communities where they live.

Health centers are often located in rural and urban areas where there are few alternatives for those seeking medical care.  That includes regular doctor visits, but it doesn’t stop there.  Community health centers are where millions of Americans go to when they need a prescription or to get their teeth fixed. They’re where parents turn to when they need counseling or support finding a job. They’re where people go for help controlling their diabetes or managing other chronic diseases.

Today, we’re announcing nearly $730 million in Affordable Care Act grants that will help community health centers across the country do more of what they do best—provide high quality care to some of our most vulnerable communities.  This investment will help them serve nearly 900,000 more patients, expand and modernize their facilities, and create jobs in local communities.

And according to a new report we released today:

  • The health care law has already supported 190 health center construction and renovation projects and the creation of 67 new health center sites across the country,
  • Since the beginning of 2009, employment at health centers nationwide has increased by 15 percent.
  • Thanks primarily to the Affordable Care Act and the Recovery Act, community health centers are serving nearly 3 million more patients.

If there has been any problem with community health centers, it’s that the supply didn’t match the demand.  Over the years, many health centers found that they simply didn’t have enough space, or clinicians, or resources to serve all the people in their community who needed care.

But that’s begun to change in the last few years.  Substantial new investments from the Affordable Care Act and the Recovery Act have helped community health centers increase the number of patients they serve each year from 17.1 million in early 2009 to 20 million in 2012.  And today’s announcement will help even more people benefit from the high-quality, low-cost care that community health centers do so well.

In the years ahead, community health centers will only get stronger. Over the next two years, the health care law will support more than 485 new health center construction and renovation projects and the creation of 245 new community health center sites. These new sites will support an additional 6,000 jobs. And the health care law will ensure 1.3 million new patients get care at a community health center in the next two years.

America’s 8,500 health center sites are the cornerstones of stronger communities.  And they do it all on budgets far smaller than those available to larger health care systems.  For their ability to offer low-cost and high-quality care to millions of Americans, community health centers are one of the best investments we make as a society.