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Community Health Centers: A Snapshot

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Community Health Centers: A Snapshot

September 29, 2009

Community health centers - outpatient clinics established explicitly for low-income, uninsured and publicly insured patients, as well as migrant workers and the homeless - are a major component of the United States' health care safety net. These freestanding clinics may can be operated by private nonprofits, local public health departments, public hospitals, or partnerships between local governments and nonprofit organizations.

As of 2009, the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration, a department of the Department of Health and Human Services, funded 1,110 health center grantees that operated more than 7,500 clinics and mobile vans. A major goal of these centers is to provide primary care to persons who might otherwise seek care in local emergency rooms, further burdening financially strapped hospitals. The health centers serve more than 16 million patients, according to the HRSA.

HRSA also oversees this large network of clinics. Most of them are Federally Qualified Health Centers, a designation that entitles them to federal grants under section 330 of the Public Health Service Act (PHS). However, a growing number are designated "FQHC Look-Alike" clinics, a designation that entitles them to some, but not all, federal benefits.

Today, the nation's community clinics are challenged by both financial cutbacks due to a recession and uncertainty over health reform. Updated March 2010

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