Promoting education and transparency for healthcare consumers


Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC's) are government subsidized healthcare facilities that offer primary care and other medical services to underserved urban and rural communities. FQHC's are a vital component of what is referred to as the healthcare "safety-net". The healthcare safety-net can be generally defined as the system of programs and providers that exist to serve low-income and other underserved populations that cannot afford private health insurance. The term is basically used to indicate the healthcare system's attempt to ensure that all Americans have access to basic healthcare services regardless of their ability to pay. FQHC's provide their services to all persons regardless of ability to pay and normally charge patients on a sliding-fee scale that is based on income and other factors. In return for accepting all patients, FQHC's are subsidized by the Federal government through grants, enhanced cost-based Medicaid reimbursement, and free malpractice coverage among other ways. FQHC's can include community health centers, migrant health centers, healthcare for the homeless programs, and public housing primary care programs and are sometimes associated with safety-net hospitals that also serve patients regardless of their ability to pay.

An FQHC is generally the lowest cost medical care option for patients and is meant to serve uninsured, underinsured, and underserved indigent (low income) populations; this can include non-U.S. citizens. FQHC's encourage the populations they serve to utilize their services at the onset of symptoms as opposed to waiting until a costly, and perhaps preventable, emergency room or hospital visit is necessary. By providing this initial point of care and emphasizing preventive care, the National Association of Community Health Centers estimates that FQHC's generate $24 Billion in healthcare savings annually. Of course, this is justification for federal subsidization of FQHC's for people who support the concept, while detractors may be skeptical of the actual cost savings and argue that FQHC's place the burden of indigent medical care on American taxpayers. Regardless of one's opinion, we think it is reasonable to say that helping out our fellow Americans who have fallen on hard times is a good and noble cause as long as the assistance is not taken advantage of. FQHC's are meant to be a resource for individuals who have nowhere else to turn and cannot afford healthcare otherwise, not for individuals who can afford healthcare but are trying to work the system.

As we've discussed above, FQHC's generally serve patient populations that have a hard time getting medical care from other providers, so it may seem that service and quality would be less of a priority for these patients as compared with simply receiving care. However, since FQHC's receive assistance from the government and also provide services to Medicare and Medicaid patients, they comply with Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and other government regulations, and many FQHC's are accredited by the Joint Commission or another relevant accrediting body. There are more than 1,200 health center organizations with over 8,000 locations throughout the United States, so patients may even be able to compare different FQHC providers. Click HERE to find an FQHC near you.

Essential QSA Knowledge

Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC's) are federally-subsidized healthcare providers that are meant to serve uninsured, underinsured, and underserved populations throughout the United States. FQHC's make up a vital part of the healthcare safety net, which attempts to ensure that all Americans have access to basic healthcare services regardless of their ability to pay. FQHC's can be utilized as a low cost primary care option by uninsured individuals as well as Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries. Some FQHC's may also accept private health insurance. FQHC's offer a valuable service to those truly in need and who cannot afford care elsewhere, but they should not be taken advantage of by those who can afford healthcare but are looking to work the system. This increases costs for all of us. The individual mandate that is part of the Affordable Care Act helps address this by requiring every American to obtain health insurance or face a monetary penalty with some exceptions.

For new content and further discussion, please visit Healthcare Whiz Explore