Health Centers at the Launch of the Coverage Expansion

May 16, 2014

The coverage expansion under the Affordable Care Act brings new pressures and opportunities for health centers, including the potential to serve newly-insured patients while continuing as a cornerstone of the primary care safety net for the uninsured. At the same time, health centers are in the midst of rapid transformation brought about in part by recent federal investments in health center capacity and delivery system improvements, even as they face uncertainty about future state and federal funding.

This briefing revealed new findings from The Commonwealth Fund’s 2013 Survey of Federally Qualified Health Centers, examined perceptions and realities of health center capacity to ensure access to newly-insured and still-uninsured patients, and highlighted system improvements health centers have made to improve outcomes and efficiency at lower costs.

Leighton Ku, director of the Center for Health Policy Research at George Washington University, discussed health center capacity in light of recent coverage expansions and highlight lessons learned about the capacity and fiscal health of health centers after the Massachusetts coverage expansion.

Vernita Todd, chief executive officer of Heart City Health Center in Elkhart, Indiana, shared an on-the-ground perspective on the center’s efforts to leverage federal investments and implement delivery system innovations to improve patient access to high-quality care.

Brooks Miller, president of the Jordan Valley Health Center in Springfield, Missouri, discussed the status of the coverage expansion with respect to Missouri health centers and highlight strategies to forge new partnerships with health systems and payers.

Michelle Proser, director of research at the National Association for Community Health Centers, highlighted national research and data analysis that will answer critical questions on health centers and the populations they serve.

Ed Howard of the Alliance and Melinda Abrams of Commonwealth co-moderated.

Contact: Sarah Dash (202)789-2300

Follow the Briefing on Twitter: #HealthCenters

The event was sponsored by the nonpartisan Alliance for Health Reform and The Commonwealth Fund.
If you were unable to attend the briefing, here are some key takeaways:
*Eighty-four percent of health center patients earn under 200 percent of the federal poverty level, Melinda Abrams said.

*Implementation of health information technology by health centers has more than doubled since 2009, according to a new Commonwealth Fund report. However, many health center leaders report provider shortages, especially with the anticipated influx of new patients and focus on integrating behavioral health.

*Health centers may face a funding cliff after the $11 billion mandatory trust fund created by the Affordable Care Act expires in 2015, Michelle Proser stated. This calls into question whether or not there is adequate continued support for health centers and whether or not they have the stability to continue to meet the needs of new patients.

*Funding for health centers is not only about grants, but payment models, Brooks Miller noted. Total grant income is only 9 percent of the budget at Jordan Valley Health Center, while Medicaid accounts for 60 percent.

*The evidence suggests that health centers save money by providing good quality primary care to people who otherwise would have difficulty getting it, Leighton Ku said. There are 1.1 million people who would be eligible if the state had expanded Medicaid to the 133% of poverty level. If a state does not expand Medicaid, these 1.1 million people will remain uninsured.


Full Transcript (Adobe Acrobat PDF)

Speaker Presentations

Melinda Abrams Presentation (Adobe Acrobat PDF)
Leighton Ku Presentation (Adobe Acrobat PDF)
Vernita Todd Presentation (Adobe Acrobat PDF)
Brooks Miller Presentation (Adobe Acrobat PDF)
Michelle Proser Presentation (Adobe Acrobat PDF)

Event Details

Agenda (Adobe Acrobat PDF)
Speaker Biographies (Adobe Acrobat PDF)

Event Resources