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Fact Sheet

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Jan 13, 2006

Contact: HHS Press Office
(202) 690-6343

Bolstering Community Health Centers

Overview

The Consolidation Health Center Program awards Federal grants through a competitive process to about 1,000 public and non-profit organizations under section 330 of the Public Health Service (PHS) Act, as amended by the Health Centers Consolidated Act of 1996 (P.L. 104-299) and the Health Care Safety Net Amendments of 2002 (P.L. 107-251).

Grantees use health center funds (FY 2005: $1.84 billion) to create a national network of more than 3,700 clinics that delivers comprehensive primary and preventive care to patients regardless of their ability to pay. In addition, most health centers also offer oral and mental health services and some specialty care. Charges for health center services are set according to income, and fees are not collected from the poorest patients. In a typical year, about 40 percent of health center patients have no insurance coverage and close to two-thirds are members of minority groups.

Background

The health center network is composed of community health centers, migrant health centers, health care for the homeless centers, school-based health centers and public housing primary care centers. HHS' Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) distributes health center funds and oversees grantees' performance.

Health centers are characterized by five essential elements that differentiate them from other health care providers.

  • They must be located in or serve a high-need community, often called “medically underserved areas” or “medically underserved populations.”

  • They must provide comprehensive primary care services as well as supportive services such as translation and transportation services that promote access to health care.

  • Their services must be available to all residents of their service areas, with fees adjusted upon patients’ ability to pay.

  • They must be governed by a community board with a majority of members health center patients.

  • And they must meet other performance and accountability requirements regarding their administrative, clinical, and financial operations.

President Bush’s Health Center Expansion Initiative

Soon after taking office, President Bush announced a five-year health center expansion initiative, with the goal of increasing the number of health center sites from about 3,200 in 2001 to 4,400 in 2006. The expansion of delivery sites would increase the number of patients served annually at health centers from 10.3 million in 2001 to more than 16 million by the end of 2006.

By the end of 2004, the latest year for which data are available, the annual number of patients treated at health centers had climbed to 13.1 million – almost 3 million more patients than were served in 2001 – at more than 3,700 clinic sites.

In fiscal year 2005, HRSA funded 158 new or expanded health center sites that are expected to increase the number of patients served in 2005 to about 14 million. The 2005 grants bring to 777 the number of new or expanded health centers created by the President’s initiative since it was launched in 2002.

The 2004 performance data reveal the health center network’s success in serving the low-income, uninsured population targeted by the Presidential expansion initiative. In 2004, health centers:

  • treated nearly 5.3 million uninsured patients, 40 percent of total patients served;

  • increased the number of homeless patients served by almost 94,000 to 770,000, a 14 percent jump over 2003 figures; and

  • increased the percentage of patients with incomes at or below 200 percent of the Federal poverty line to 91 percent, a full percentage point increase over 2003.

And in the midst of serving a more difficult patient load, health centers found creative new ways to build financial strength and self-reliance. Patient revenue in 2004 rose to 57 percent of total revenue, and grant revenue dropped in percentage. Federal grants funds awarded by HRSA accounted for only 21.5% of total health center revenue in 2004.

Expansion of Services

While they implemented President Bush's expansion initiative, HRSA officials emphasized a more comprehensive delivery of services by health centers. For example, medical visits by health center patients rose by 27 percent during the 2001-2004 period, while dental visits rose 58 percent and mental health visits 86 percent during the same period.

In 2004, health centers treated more than 2.1 million dental patients, an increase of more than a quarter of a million patients over 2003. The 2004 patients made more than 5.1 million visits to dental health professionals at health centers, an increase of more than 650,000 visits over 2003 totals.

The Presidential initiative also has encouraged the expansion of pharmacy services at health centers. Comprehensive pharmacy services provide access to affordable medications, efficient pharmacy business practices, and medication management services that improve health outcomes.

HRSA's Office of Pharmacy Affairs helps health centers offer those comprehensive services by enrolling them in the 340B Drug Pricing Program the Office administers. Section 340B of the Public Health Service Act authorizes health centers and certain other safety-net providers to participate in a program to access prescription drugs at discounts that average 49 percent below market price. In 2004, 86 percent of all health centers had signed up to buy drugs under 340B authority.

Additionally, the President's expansion initiative offers great opportunities to health care professionals committed to serve underserved populations. In 2004, the health center network added almost 5,300 full-time employees, including 400 primary care physicians, about 240 dental professionals, and more than 2,200 administrative staffers.

Congressional Action

In FY 2006, Congress provided a $48 million increase over FY 2005, which will fund approximately 121 new (88) and expanded (33) sites, serving an additional 700,000 people.

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Note: All HHS press releases, fact sheets and other press materials are available at http://www.hhs.gov/news.

Last Revised: February 2, 2006

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