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Charlotte Amalie
Wednesday, December 2, 2020
Home Community Health & Wellness Federally Qualified Health Centers Are Safety Nets in Rural Communities

Federally Qualified Health Centers Are Safety Nets in Rural Communities

Federally Qualified Health Center staff at work (submitted photo)

Federally Qualified Health Centers, like Frederiksted Health Care Inc., are intended to increase access to primary care services for patients in rural communities. Rural Health Centers can be public, nonprofit or for-profit healthcare facilities.

Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) are important safety net providers in rural areas. FQHCs are outpatient clinics that qualify for specific reimbursement systems under Medicare and Medicaid. They include federally-designated Health Center Program awardees, federally-designated Health Center Program look-alikes, and certain outpatient clinics associated with tribal organizations.

To receive certification, they must be located in rural, underserved areas. They are required to use a team approach of physicians working with non-physician providers such as nurse practitioners (NP), physician assistants (PA) and certified nurse-midwives (CNM) to provide services. The clinic must be staffed at least 50 percent of the time with an NP, PA or CNM. RHCs are required to provide outpatient primary care services and basic laboratory services.

Approximately 1 in 5 rural (geographically challenged areas) residents are served by the Health Center Program, according to the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Bureau of Primary Health Care (BPHC). Health centers provide a comprehensive set of health services including primary care; behavioral health; chronic disease management; preventive care; and other specialty, enabling and ancillary services, which may include radiology, laboratory, dental, transportation, translation and social services. To be a qualified entity in the federal Health Center Program, an organization must:

  • Offer services to all, regardless of the person’s ability to pay
  • Establish a sliding fee discount program
  • Be a nonprofit or public organization
  • Be community-based, with the majority of its governing board of directors composed of patients
  • Serve a Medically Underserved Area or Population
  • Provide comprehensive primary care services
  • Have an ongoing quality assurance program
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There are several distinctions that should be understood related to health centers:

  • Health Center Program
    • Health Center Program Awardee – Health centers that receive award funding from the HRSA Bureau of Primary Health Care under the Health Center Program, as authorized by Section 330 of the Public Health Service (PHS) Act. Most awards provide support to contribute to serving an entire underserved community (or service area), while others fund specific underserved populations as mandated in the Section 330 authorization, such as migratory and seasonal agricultural workers, persons experiencing or at risk for homelessness and residents of public housing.
    • Health Center Program Look-Alikes – Look-alikes are health centers that have been designated by HRSA as meeting all the Health Center Program requirements, but do not receive award funding under the Health Center Program.
  • Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) — FQHCs are outpatient clinics that qualify for specific reimbursement under Medicare and Medicaid. FQHCs include Health Center Program awardees and look-alikes as well as certain outpatient clinics associated with tribal organizations. Note that different rules may apply to outpatient clinics associated with tribal organizations who enroll in Medicare or Medicaid as FQHCs.
  • Health Center – A non-specific term that does not identify whether a health facility is a Health Center Program awardee, a health center look-alike, or an FQHC.

For more information log unto https://www.fqhc.org/general-fqhc-info

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