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What is a Community Health Center?
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Health Centers are also known as Community Health Centers and as Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs), but each of those names serve a different purpose.

Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) are organizations defined in the Medicare and Medicaid Statutes of the Social Security Act. The designation is used to determine payment terms for these organizations for Medicare and Medicaid. There are three main types of FQHCs: tribal health centers (funded through the Indian Health Service), health center program grantees (funded through the Health Resources and Services Administration), and FQHC Look-Alikes (designated through the Health Resources and Services Administration, but not federally funded). 

Health Center Program Grantees are organizations that receive federal funding from the Health Resources and Services Administration and are either public entities or non profit  501(c)(3) corporations that deliver primary medical, dental, and mental health services in medically underserved areas. We often refer to program grantees as Health Centers or Community Health Centers.

Watch this short video for a brief background of Community Health Centers and find additional information below.

What are the requirements of a Community Health Center?

  • Must be located in a federally designated Medically Underserved Area (MUA) or serve a federally designated Medically Underserved Population (MUP)
  • Must be a non-profit, tax-exempt organization or a public entity
  • Must offer a sliding fee scale and provide services regardless of ability to pay
  • Must have a Board of Directors, a majority of whom are consumers of the Health Center’s services - or for Health Centers serving special populations, have a meaningful way to get patient input in the services provided
  • Must participate in federal reporting requirements
  • Must leverage additional resources (The federal contribution is intended to be only a portion of the Health Center’s overall budget.)
  • Must comply with the HRSA Health Center Program Compliance Manual.

What are the advantages of the federally funded Community Health Center model?

  • Health Centers are able to provide comprehensive primary care, while receiving reasonable reimbursement from Medicaid and Medicare
  • Health Centers are eligible for protection from lawsuits alleging medical malpractice through the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA)
  • Health Centers are eligible to purchase prescription and non-prescription medications for their clients at reduced cost through the 340B Drug Pricing Program
  • Health Centers are eligible to apply for additional federal grants for site and service expansions
  • Health Centers have access to providers through the National Health Service Corps

What key services are provided by a federally funded Community Health Center?

  • Primary care services, diagnostic laboratory and radiology services, preventive services including prenatal and perinatal services
  • Cancer and communicable disease screening
  • Chronic disease management
  • Well-child services, immunizations, screening for elevated blood lead levels
  • Eye, ear, and dental screening for children
  • Family planning, mental health, substance abuse, dental and pharmaceutical services
  • Case management services; and
  • Translation and interpretation services.

Each Community Health Center is governed by a Board of Directors. What are the Board of Directors requirements?

  • Consist of between 9 and 25 members The majority of board members must be patients of the Health Center and represent the populations served.
  • Meet at least monthly, establish the Health Center hours, approve the selection of the Health Center executive director and establish general policies for the Health Center.