Community health centers will play a critical role in determining whether recently-passed health care reform legislation can succeed on the promise to increase access while lowering costs.
(See link below to connect to the nearest federally funded health center http://findahealthcenter.hrsa.gov/Search_HCC_byAddr.aspx)
Health care reform means that over 30 million people who are currently uninsured will be covered and looking for access to medical care. Across the country, community health centers will expand to provide access for most of these newly insured individuals thanks to provisions in the bill that provide an additional $11 billion in funding for community health centers over the next five years. It is projected that this will allow community health centers to double the number of patients that they see during that time.
While $11 billion is a lot of money, utilization of community health centers is critical to achieve the cost savings projected in the health care bill. Because community health centers are not-for-profit organizations with lower cost structures than private practices, they are able to see patients more cost-effectively than private practices. But large costs savings can come from prevention and appropriate care as well.
In fact, a recent study by the Geiger Gibson/RCHN Community Health Foundation Research Collaborative at George Washington University quantified the cost-savings projected by the expansion of community health centers. They found that the $11 billion in additional funds will allow patient volumes to increase from 18.8 million today to 33.8 million by 2015 and to 36.3 million by 2019. The report suggests that this expansion of patients utilizing community health centers could reduce overall medical costs by $181 billion between now and 2019.
Patients who have a "medical home" stay healthier. This is because the staff is familiar with their medical history and can help with preventative care and with managing chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes and asthma.
When someone has a medical home, they avoid using the emergency room as their primary care physician.